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Get your oompah on
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Quietly and consistently, Savannah’s Oktoberfest celebration has become the area’s second-largest public event -- second only to that really big deal that goes on here each March. “We’ll get 200,000 people to attend over the course of the weekend, depending on the weather,” says Kenny Hill, assistant director of the Savannah Waterfront Association. “If the temperature drops into the 70s, we’ll easily see in excess of that.” Though many events at this weekend’s Oktoberfest will be standard fare -- the Wiener Dog races and German food booths, for example -- Hill says there will be a few new wrinkles. Entertainment-wise there’s a major upgrade, with Southern rockers Marshall Tucker Band playing Friday night, and the ‘70s band Ambrosia headlining Saturday night. “There will be a German winetasting tent, with 15 German wines sponsored by three local distributors,” Hill says. “You can taste each of 15 wines for $15.” There will be four German imported beers available at Oktoberfest beer stations. Another twist this year involves two visiting vessels, the Georgia Bulldog shrimpboat and the U.S.S. Cole. “The Georgia Bulldog shrimpboat is an extension service boat converted to a teaching vessel,” Hill says. “You can take free shrimpboat tours on a live, working shrimpboat.” Because of post-911 security measures, the public will not be able to visit the U.S.S. Cole, in port through the festival. The vessel, target of a terrorist bombing in 1999, will be on hand for Oktoberfest opening festivities 5 p.m. Friday night. German food lovers will have eight German-themed food booths staffed by local restaurants to choose from. In addition to the typical bratwurst and wienerschnitzels, tasty German pastries will also be on hand. “The palate will certainly be challenged,” Hill promises. For the kids, a Comcast Children’s Activity area will feature things like hat making and monster murals. In other regular Oktoberfest events, the always popular “Wiener Dog races” -- Dachshund races, actually -- are again at 11 a.m. Saturday. At 2 p.m. Saturday, however, comes an event that will either fascinate you or repel you -- the self-explanatory “Roger Wood Foods Vidalia Onion Sausage Eating Contest.” Sunday’s main event is the River Street Waiter’s Race at 3 p.m., in which various representatives of the local food and beverage community do “Survivor Style” stunts in full regalia. And of course, the soundtrack for the entire weekend will be a German “Oompah” band. The 22nd Annual Oktoberfest takes place this Friday-Sunday on River Street. Opening ceremonies are 5 p.m. Friday night. Marshall Tucker Band plays later that evening. The Wiener Dog Races happen 11 a.m. Saturday. Ambrosia plays Saturday evening. Waiter Races are at 3 p.m. Sunday. Children’s activities, German food and drink available throughout the festival.