Oktoberfest returns after two years, affecting small local businesses

Panama City Beach, Florida. (WJHG/WECP) – Due to the pandemic, the Panama City Beach Oktoberfest returns to Aaron Besan Park for the first time since 2019.

“We’ve got over 1,000 kids under the age of 12 here, so it’s a good weekend for family fun,” said Grant Wittstruck, the event’s marketing coordinator.

The local economy has also been positively affected, event representatives said.

“In terms of the economic impact on the destination, the impact on the area of ‚Äč‚Äčthis kind of people coming to town is hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Wittstruck said.

Small business owners say the event has been great for them after the COVID-19 pandemic of the past two years.

“I think it helps lift local business owners, especially small business owners,” said local small business owner Elizabeth Parker. “I mean, after COVID, it hurts all of us as small business owners.”

Musicians have the same story.

“It’s good for the community,” said musician Derrol Fulghum. “I think it’s absolutely shocking to see the turnout here, especially after Hurricane Michael and after the pandemic.”

People travel far and wide for Oktoberfest.

“[We had] Five different countries, including Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands,” Wittstruck said.

Tournament officials say the goal is to expand the size of the event each year.

“There’s no reason not to think next year won’t be bigger than this,” Wittstruck said.

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