Downtown Shawnee businesses to host Oktoberfest this weekend with COVID-19 limits

Transport Brewery in downtown Shawnee is hosting its second annual Oktoberfest alongside local partners Aztec Theater and McLain's Market.

Transport Brewery has partnered with Aztec Theater, McLain’s Market and other local businesses in downtown Shawnee to bring back Oktoberfest this weekend. The second annual event takes place Sept. 25-26 outside of the microbrewery to accommodate COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

The festivities will look like a block party of German beers, food and live music in the parking lot behind the brewery on the southwest corner of Johnson Drive and Nieman Road.

“We want to be able to bring Oktoberfest back to Shawnee and to Transport Brewery, but in a way that people would want to come and feel safe,” said Christie Merandino, operations manager. “That’s why we wanted to have a block party — we want to do it in our back yard where we have enough space. We want to highlight the local businesses that have helped downtown Shawnee grow.”

Guests at the family-friendly event can expect to get their temperature taken and will be handed a mask to wear if they don’t have one. Masks must be worn in commonly-shared areas, but can be removed to enjoy food and drink at their chairs or tents.

Merandino said they encourage guests to bring their families, dogs and their own chairs. Staff will be spaced apart to serve guests and offer touchless payment options.

Oktoberfest will feature German beers, food and music. Guests should bring their own masks but will be provided one if they don’t have any.

Downtown local partners for Oktoberfest include Aztec Theater, which is co-hosting the venue, and McLain’s Market. Jeff Calkins with Aztec Theater said they’re almost ready to open (more on that later), but they wanted to come out and join in the downtown festivities.

Other vendors are co-sponsoring the event, including:

The Happy Wanderers, a local band, will play traditional German oompah music. The event also includes cornhole as well as a four-cask beer engine, which ferments the beer in small kegs and is poured at cellar temperature. Aztec Theater will lead a stein holding contest in which participants must hold out steins (mugs) of beer; whoever holds the beer the longest wins prizes, such as gift certificates with the theater.

Transport Brewery is decked out in Oktoberfest decorations in preparation for the annual event.

Merandino said the brewery’s first annual Oktoberfest event last year took place alongside their grand opening, and it was a hit.

“We didn’t want to cancel it — we just changed our business model to make it safer and friendlier,” she said. “Instead of having everyone packed in the brewery, we have 10 times the amount of space outside, and every protocol we can take to allow people to feel safe to come out again and enjoy themselves, even if it’s just for two days to kind of forget about what’s going on in the world, we’d like to give them some kind of normalcy back with safety at the forefront of everything that we’re doing.”

Knowing that the past few months have been hard on the community, Merandino and Jeff Calkins with Aztec Theater said they hope to bring everyone together in a way that’s safe but also encouraging and uplifting.

“We’re very conscious of the times we’re going through now, but people are struggling for social interaction, and they really need that,” Calkins said. “You have to be able to do it in a way that you feel comfortable, and Transport has always wanted to be a part of the neighborhood, as do we. It’s just a good way for people to get out without having to feel constricted or worried about anything.”