MT. ANGEL - Most visitors to Oktoberfest come for the food, drink and entertainment, but a growing number are also drawn by the chance to sweat, strain and test themselves in a road run or a triathlon.
After participating in the Oktoberfest Road Run a few times, Mount Angel native and current Salem resident Matt Bauman took over the race in 2004 with the blessing of Oktoberfest. In his eight years of coordinating the event, Bauman has watched the participation skyrocket.
"This year we had 940 registered participants in the 5K, 10K and 1 mile Kids' Run," said Bauman. "We have seen tremendous growth since our first year in 2004 when we had 105 registered."
Staci Sprauer, who moved to Mount Angel in the summer of 2010, decided that putting on an Oktoberfest Triathlon would be a great addition to the festival, and might also serve as a good fundraiser for the Kennedy High School volleyball team she coaches.
After months of planning and working out complicated logistics, Sprauer debuted the Oktoberfest Triathlon on Sunday of this year's festival. With 66 entries, including seven triathlon "teams," she pronounced the swim-bike-run event a success.
"I was very excited that it ran so smoothly, and also by the feedback I have gotten from the athletes," said Sprauer. "There are a lot of things I can improve on next year." While she did not have final figures, Sprauer thought that the triathlon might make as much as $2,000 this year for JFK volleyball.
Sprauer could use Bauman's road run as a model of how to grow an event. He said it is a six-month job that involves dozens of volunteers to pull off.
"We begin the marketing in April or May, but even with months of planning, most of the work is done in the week leading up to the event.
"We are very fortunate to have the help of our family members to prepare race packets, fold t-shirts, organize bib and chip numbers, and set up on the morning of the race. Volunteer jobs include packet pickup, registration, serving as course marshals, water stations, and finish line support."
This year Bauman and his crew got ample assistance from the Kennedy cross country team, Habitat for Humanity, and The Kleinstadtlers, a new local dance group. In return for their volunteer assistance, Bauman contributes donations from the run proceeds to these organizations.
Bauman and his wife Sarah are also strong supporters of the American Cancer Society. Touched by the plight of a young relative who was ill with cancer, they organized the Canby Fun Run as a benefit for the Cancer Society. The success of the Oktoberfest Road Run has enabled them to donate seed money and supplies for the Canby event so that registration fees may be given directly to the American Cancer Society.
Bauman believes that good marketing has been key to the growth of the Oktoberfest Road Run, and Sprauer says that will be her emphasis next year.
"My goal is to get between 200 and 300 participants for the Triathlon. I didn't really do much advertising this year. If I advertise, we can easily triple the number.
"Oktoberfest is such a draw for people to come to anyway."
This year's triathlon was a "sprint" event, meaning the distances were relatively short. The triathlon started with a half-mile swim in the Silverton City Pool followed by a 12-mile bike ride, which ended at Kennedy High School. The last leg was a 5K (3.1 mile) run which looped onto Kraemer Farms property, and finished on the high school track.
Sprauer envisions having both sprint and Olympic triathlon competitions next year. An Olympic triathlon is comprised of a one-mile swim, 28-mile bike ride, and a 10K run. She is planning to form an organizing committee for the triathlon and invites anyone who is interested in helping to email her at email@example.com.
Bauman also hopes to see continued growth in the road run, and he is considering adding a half-marathon distance as an option. He is intrigued by the idea of moving the start and finish from Humpert Park to a location closer to the new Mount Angel Festhalle, where there is more parking, space and restroom facilities.
Oktoberfest Public Relations Director Jerry Lauzon said organizers are big supporters of the road run, the triathlon and the other activities that take place during Oktoberfest.
"To be a really great folk festival, you have to involve people of all ages in all sorts of ways," said Lauzon.
"Dancing, music, sports. Sports are such an integral part of our lives and to have them as part of the festival is wonderful. It fits so well in my idea of what a folk festival is all about: a celebration of life."