The Food: There are so many choices for food at the world's second-largest Oktoberfest, it's hard to decide what to eat. There are always some new items to try, but after 28 years of Oktoberfests, 10 items have emerged as "audience favorites." These are Alpine Hut's Kartoffle Nester (thin-sliced potatoes), Wertheim's potato pancakes, Black Forest cheesecake, Super Bratwurst, sauerkraut balls, Eddie's BBQ pork sandwich, Strasse Haus' Zoomer Mett and Izzy's Classic Reuben.
The Beer: Twenty beer booths will pour everything from the domestic - Miller, Sam Adams, BarrelHouse - to the more exotic imports. Some special offerings include two Warsteiner brews (a basic clear amber pilsner and a heavy dark Dunkel), Spaten beers (including a specially brewed amber Oktoberfest variety) and two Konig Ludwig offerings.
Souvenirs: The "gotta have" souvenir this year is a ceramic German nesting doll ($10) - a doll inside a doll inside a doll of a jolly lederhosen-clad German dude, available at the Fifth and Vine streets souvenir booth. Other hot sellers include the commemorative Oktoberfest beer steins ($10-$15) and T-shirts ($10-$22).
Entertainment: Multiple stages offer German oom-pah music, polka contests, traditional folk dancers, accordion music and more around the clock. The Lowenbrau World's Largest Chicken Dance led by rocker Eddie Money starts 4 p.m. Sunday on Fountain Square.
The Details: Hours are 11 a.m.-midnight today and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday, Fifth Street between Race and Broadway, downtown. Many streets between Fourth and Sixth streets closed 6 p.m. Friday. Parking is available in downtown lots, expect to pay $8-$15. Detailed information (including event map) at www.oktoberfestzinzinnati.com.
All Day . . . And Free
"A Taste of Gospel Music" is an all-day event featuring a long list of area church choirs, soloists, duets, trios and more performing 10 a.m.-9 p.m. today on Courthouse Square in downtown Hamilton (High and Second streets). Scheduled to perform throughout the event is The Benge Family, a national ministry based in Hamilton. (800) 311-5353.
For the kids
Thomas the Tank Engine is at the Turtle Creek & Lebanon Railway for two weekends with 25-minute train rides, pictures with Sir Topham Hatt, storytelling, video viewing, a petting zoo, a hay bale maze and more. Trains leave every 45 minutes 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m. today-Sunday and Friday-Sept. 28 from the depot in historic downtown Lebanon, one block south of the Golden Lamb (Broadway and South streets). $14. (866) 468-7630.
One of the fastest-growing and easiest-to-learn outdoor sports is orienteering, the sport of navigation using only a map, compass and brain power. Learn how to find your way around nature and celebrate National Orienteering Day with Orienteering Cincinnati noon-2 p.m. Sunday at Rentschler Forest in Hamilton. Novices and experienced pathfinders are welcome. Full range of courses available. $6, $2 car permit. 868-7535 or www.ocin.org.
Shauna Scott Rhone
E-mail email@example.com; fax; 768-8330
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Get to it!