Fresh off of tapping the Oktoberfest keg Saturday at Schell’s Brewery, Kyle Marti said it felt great to see the annual celebration back in full swing.

Marti is part of the sixth generation of leadership at his family’s brewery. Founded by August Schell in 1860, the New Ulm staple is the second oldest family-owned brewery in the nation.

Restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a scaled-down Oktoberfest in 2020. Schell’s worked with county and state public health agencies on a smaller celebration with 250 people last year.

With at least that many lined up outside the brewery’s grounds even before the gate opened Saturday morning, this year’s Oktoberfest represented a return to form.

“I think everybody needs it,” Marti said. “It’s been a tough year and a half, and for people to get out and experience life again, that’s the best thing to see.”

Oktoberfest is a big community gathering for New Ulm, a celebration of the city’s rich German heritage. New Ulm has held an Oktoberfest celebration for 39 years — this year’s festivities began at the city’s Best Western Plus and B&L and Lamplighter bars on Oct. 1 — while Schell’s celebration as part of it dates back 10.

Justin Weinberg, who lived in New Ulm for nearly a decade before moving to Minnetrista, hasn’t missed an Oktoberfest at Schell’s. He and his wife get a table under the big tent, reminiscent of Munich’s famed Oktoberfest tents, every year and invite friends to the festivities.

Being under the tent, listening to the Schell’s Hobo Band, and seeing the grounds full again make for a special day, Weinberg said.

“You have this feeling of everybody coming together,” he said. “That’s probably my favorite part of it, getting that togetherness.”

He likes Oktoberfest more than the State Fair, which he joked were fighting words in Minnesota.

“You can’t ask for a better day than this,” he said. “It’s dynamite.”

Men in lederhosen and women in dirndls, many with liter glasses full of beer, dressed for the occasion. They welcomed a horse-drawn beer wagon, ridden by longtime President/CEO Ted Marti, shortly after the gate opened.

Ted Marti, who said the warm weather had him expecting a strong turnout Saturday, began handing off the reins at the brewery to his sons in 2020. The oldest son, Jace, translated his experience as a brewer into distilling, launching Black Frost Distilling Company in New Ulm.

Kyle Marti and the youngest brother, Franz, continued on at Schell’s. Tapping the fest keg Saturday was a first for Kyle, who said his father or older brother did the honors in the past.

“No pressure, right?” he joked afterward.

The tap worked, unleashing a stream of beer into a liter glass below. He handed the glass to his father, who held it aloft and welcomed everybody as the band started again.

A line of people then came forward to fill their cups from the tapped keg. Oktoberfest was fully back at Schell’s.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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