Downtown Riverhead's first Oktoberfest was a big hit this weekend. Photo: Alek Lewis

Riverhead Town held its first-ever Oktoberfest celebration on Saturday, filling Grangebel Park with families and craft brew drinkers enjoying the town’s spin on the traditional Bavarian festival.

The event, organized by the East End Tourism Alliance and the Business Improvement District, featured local Oktoberfest and fall craft beers from Peconic County Brewing, North Fork Brewing, Long Ireland Beer Company and Tradewinds Brewing. Seaside Grill catered the event with traditional Oktoberfest foods.

BID Management Association Executive Director Kristy Verity estimated that over a thousand people were in attendance.

“A couple of [breweries] ran out of beer, I think,” Verity said. “They weren’t even expecting so many guests to come so, you know, it was a pleasant surprise. Even the restaurants and businesses made out well also. I saw plenty of people walking around the street afterward and during, and people were there for dinner. They made a whole day of it, so that was really nice to see.”

Guests also participated in the traditional steinholding contest, where competitors extend their arm with a full traditional German beer mug as long as they can. The last person standing who hasn’t spill their mug wins the competition. 

The park was lit up at dusk by the Reflextions: Art in the Park exhibit. The festival featured a live music set by the band Who Are Those Guys.

Verity said the next few BID events will also feature local breweries. A brewery crawl is scheduled for Oct. 29. Verity said the BID also plans to revive the SantaCon pub crawl this year. 

The BID wants to make Riverhead the “craft capital of the East End.” Verity said the BID plans to do celebrations for Oktoberfest and other beer-centric holidays and festivals for years to come. The BID is also working on a project called the Riverhead Ale Trail, which will incorporate all local breweries, and is expected to launch early next year. 

“This was a nice intro to the craft beer campaigns that we’ll be working on in the future,” Verity said. “I think that people are really starting to see the craft beverage industry blossom in Riverhead, so we’re excited for that.”

RiverheadLOCAL photos by Alek Lewis

Correction: This article has been amended to correct the date of the brewery crawl which will take place on Oct. 29, not Oct. 23.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.