Rio Rancho’s Oktoberfest, seen here during the 2019 celebration, returns Saturday. Courtesy of Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Rio Rancho’s business scene will resume another COVID-safe version of Oktoberfest to celebrate its own taste of Germany’s storied festival.

“Each one of the (business) locations will be doing something special for Oktoberfest… There’ll be music, food, German food, and the breweries will be releasing their Oktoberfest beer that weekend,” said Jerry Schalow, president and CEO for the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce.

This year’s event, along Southern Boulevard, will take place Saturday — yes, in September — from 3 to 9 p.m.

“We definitely like celebrating Oktoberfest… Even a scaled-back version is still fun,” Turtle Mountain Brewing Co. owner Nico Ortiz said. “I’m an enormous fan of German sausage myself… Unfortunately, the main (Oktoberfest event) in Munich is not going on this year, but we’re going to celebrate it in their honor.”

Schalow said the event goes back more than 30 years through a few hiatuses, with the chamber of commerce launching a reincarnated “shop and stroll” version of it in 2019.

“Longtime residents had missed that event, and they also wanted something to be along Southern (Boulevard) so the community can enjoy it. Southern is still our Main Street. That was kind of the focal point there, so it all fit,” he said.

Schalow said the 2019 event took up Turtle Mountain’s whole parking lot with vendors and bands. He also said Brew Lab 101 and O’Hare’s used a good amount of parking lot space for the festivities, and there were bus services for patrons who didn’t want to walk along Southern.

The event had to be scaled back for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schalow said the 2021 event will remain scaled back due to the Delta variant.

“It’ll be primarily outdoor seating,” Schalow said.

He said one should expect larger crowds compared to 2020. Although it won’t be the same “shop and stroll” event seen in 2019, he said people can go to various locations along Southern.

Schalow said parking lots won’t be closed off for crowds like they were in 2019, but Brew Lab 101 will have live music this year. He also said there won’t be a limit on attendance, and extended patios at eateries will help manage capacity.

However, he said water tanks and hot-air balloons won’t appear at this year’s event. Additionally, he also said bus services won’t take place due to the limitations brought on by the state’s public health order.

Ortiz said Turtle Mountain will utilize its two patios and extend out into its east parking lot, where the restaurant will cook bratwurst sausages.

He said Turtle Mountain will also have an extra batch of the “Oktürtlefest” brew on tap.

“We anticipate a lot of people coming out, especially if the weather’s nice,” Ortiz said.

Schalow said he hopes the event will return to the way it was pre-pandemic by 2022.

Matt Hollinshead | Staff writer