When it comes to German harvest festivals, Pablo Formal thinks big.
“We’re expecting around 6,000 people in two days,” said Formal, creator of Oktoberfest Costa Rica. “What it represents to me is an opportunity to be with family and friends, to have camaraderie. Oktoberfest Costa Rica is open to anybody, [even] kids and elders.”
Until recently, there have only been a few loosely organized Oktoberfest celebrations around the country, including one in the Central Valley hosted by Humboldt School. But this will be the first “massive Oktoberfest,” Formal says.
The two-day beer bonanza will take place on Avenida Escazú, a main strip of the suburb’s commercial district. Activities will largely unfold outdoors and inside tents, much like the original Bavarian festival.
Like Cinco de Mayo, Oktoberfest is a holiday that has vastly outgrown its humble origins. The festival was conceived in the city of Munich in 1810 to commemorate the marriage of Bavarian Prince Ludwig and his bride Therese. In the two centuries since, Oktoberfest has ballooned into a carnival of all things Deutschland – lederhosen, bratwurst, polka and colossal mugs of fine beer. The festival is celebrated all over the world, regardless of a sizable German population.
For millions of celebrants, Oktoberfest is a chance to sample different makes of beer, and Formal believes that now is the perfect time for Costa Ricans to embrace their inner Sturm und Drang.
“Costa Rica has a really strong beer culture,” Formal said during a phone interview. “And there is this new generation that is open to trying different kinds of beers. The [local] beer industry has grown. We’re going to have several craft beers, about nine or 10, and we hope to have over 30 types of beers in total. That’s why we think Oktoberfest will be a great option for Ticos.”
Formal is founder of NuShark Media, a startup marketing company specializing in “entertainment, information and resources for the online generation.” NuShark has a staff of only three, yet Formal plans to make Oktoberfest Costa Rica an epic showcase for the company – as well as a venue for genuine revelry.
“We are trying to capture the essence of [Oktoberfest],” Formal explained. “But it’s Costa Rica, right? We have to tropicalize the event.”
Some naysayers have publically objected on Facebook to Oktoberfest’s authenticity in a warm-weather Central American city, but Formal shrugs it off, insisting that the spirit of the festival will remain intact. “People can expect a large variety of beers, a tent of German food – sauerkraut, goulash, pretzels. All the girls will be dressed in German outfits. They will also enjoy German music. Not all German music – also DJs playing hip-hop and alternative.”
Formal is planning a host of games and activities as well, including a competition for “who can hold a pitcher of beer the longest.” The winner will receive “Das Boot,” a beer glass shaped like a boat.
To research the event, Formal visited two Oktoberfests in the United States, one in Cleveland and the other in Miami. He felt that each festival failed to interact with its guests. “Nobody dressed up,” he recalled. Thus, Formal’s version will include a costume contest. “We’re trying to get people’s involvement in the event. My girlfriend and I dressed up in German outfits in Miami, and people took pictures with us. I want this one to be more like that.”
Oktoberfest Costa Rica takes place Oct. 26-27 on Avenida Escazú. Day passes are ₡8,000-₡15,000 ($16-$30). Info: facebook.com/oktoberfestCR.