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Cleveland Celebrates 40 Years of OctoberFest Traditions

It might be German-inspired, but this OctoberFest has tons of Mississippi Delta traditions.

“At its heart, it is a community festival with food, live music, and fun events for the whole family,” said Hannah Aguzzi, who serves on the OctoberFest planning committee for the city of Cleveland. “We showcase arts and crafts vendors, as well as a dedicated children’s section with toys and inflatables, and will host a competitive 5K and 10K race the morning of the festival. But undoubtedly, the star of the event for so many in the community is the BBQ cooking competition.”

Hailed as a different kind of event, the historic downtown Cleveland’s OctoberFest has been the largest festival in Bolivar County for the last 40 years. The all-day celebration is set for Oct. 8 and promises to be jam-packed with food, music, arts and crafts, and entertainment in a family-friendly environment.

“We really see foot traffic increase immensely in our downtown sector,” Aguzzi said. “This certainly helps our tourism tax revenues, which are collected from hotels and restaurants in Cleveland. And while folks are downtown, we certainly encourage them to visit our local businesses in addition to the festival vendors. Overall, it really is a great boost of morale as well as economic factors to our town.”

The festivities will include a barbecue contest sanctioned by the Memphis BBQ Network, the Mississippi Delta State Barbecue Championship, arts and crafts, children’s activities, and live musical entertainment acts.

“This year marks the 40th anniversary of OctoberFest in Cleveland, and I couldn’t be more excited about this year’s festival!” she said. “I’ve been volunteering and attending OctoberFest since moving to Cleveland in 1995, and I’m proud to see this great tradition continue.”

The OctoberFest is also a contest on the Delta BBQ Battle circuit, which awards $10,000 to the championship team and $3,000 to the patio team with the highest score from three of the four contests on the circuit. BBQ judging and awards begin at 5:30 pm.

The OctoberFest will be kicked- off with an early morning run through Cleveland’s leafy, old neighborhoods and the campus of Delta State University. The run will begin at downtown Cleveland’s beautiful Cotton Row greenway. The race route is a 5k loop with the 10k being twice around the route. The race will be timed and feature custom-made prizes for the top male and female runners in each distance. All runners will receive a custom-made finishing medal and a festival t-shirt.

There will be live music performances by Variety, Gran Boiz, Craig Adams, Black Water Trio, and The Krackerjacks Party Band of the South.

“We’re excited to have The Krackerjacks, the Party Band of the South headlining our Saturday night concert,” she said. “They have a pretty significant following throughout Mississippi, and we think they’re going to draw a big crowd who we hope will bring out their dancing shoes! We’ll have other local acts from Cleveland that will play a variety of genres: funk, country, soul, and R&B, as well as some Americana.”

This year, the children’s play area will be at the three-way intersection of Court Street, Cotton Row, and North Bayou. It will feature inflatable jump houses, obstacle courses, and other children’s activities. The children’s play area will open at 9 am and will remain open to festival-goers until dusk.

And no Mississippi OctoberFest is complete without football and beer.

“We’re also going to be rolling out the Budweiser Big Rig from Mitchell Distributing, one of our festival sponsors,” she said. “It’s a portable bar with big screen TVs, so folks who come to the festival won’t miss out on their SEC games.”


Written by Cherie Ward

Cherie Ward is an award-winning Mississippi Gulf Coast journalist with decades of experience in writing and photography. She lives in Ocean Springs with her husband and has two adult children who also live on the Coast.

Connect with her by email at [email protected] with story ideas or find her @cherieward on Instagram. She would love to hear from you.


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