Big crowds will gather yet again for Octoberfest, like they have for the past 30 years.
Octoberfest 2012 also commemorates the 25th anniversary of the festival's barbecue contest, giving the people of Cleveland even more to celebrate during this proud tradition.
"We really appreciate the great support from the businesses and sponsors in town," said Anne Dilworth, Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce special events coordinator.
"We're expecting more than 50 barbecue teams this year and 130 exhibitors — the numbers keep going up each year," she added.
Dilworth has been helping organize the event for 17 years and said it's impressive how Octoberfest continues to grow in popularity.
"The growth has been tremendous. We think this brings in about $1.7 million or more of economic impact with the way it's grown.
"Let's not forget the hundreds of volunteers who help make it happen."
The barbecue completion began at the fifth Octoberfest and has also attracted a large crowd of competitors through the years.
"We'll certainly have one of the highest levels of competition this year," said Elise Jenkins, BBQ competition chair.
The Challenger Division has been added to the contest, allowing teams to become more comfortable before moving up to the Pro Division.
The competition will follow Memphis Barbecue Network sanctions.
Jenkins has been chairing the barbecue battle for at least 15 years and said the fun environment has helped her loose track of what year she started.
"Octoberfest has given me great pride through the years," she said. "I'm very proud to be a part of something that's been attracting more and more people — it means we're doing something right."
The ceremonial lighting of the grill will kick off downtown at 6 p.m. on Friday.
Janice Arnold, Octoberfest chair at the inaugural festival 30 years ago, will light the grill this year.
"It's fantastic to see how the people of Cleveland continue to back Octoberfest," said Arnold. "It means a great deal that they'd ask me to do the lighting. I'm hoping for a big crowd and lot's of sunshine."
A mosaic pig made by the Cleveland Junior Auxiliary, with support from the Crosstie Arts Council, will also be unveiled after the grill lighting.
Along with Octoberfest's outstanding food, music and children's activities, Dilworth said the arts and crafts exhibitors would also be impressive.
See today's special insert in The Bolivar Commercial for a full schedule of Octoberfest events.