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Leavenworth Cancels Its Popular Oktoberfest and Christmas Lighting Festival for 2020

COVID-19 restrictions have limited the tourist destination’s plans this year

A Leavenworth, WA, street filled with Bavarian-style buildings, with cars parked outside and the Cascade mountains in the background
Leavenworth typically draws tens of thousand of people to Oktoberfest annually.

Washington’s Bavarian-themed getaway is going to be quieter this fall and winter. The city of Leavenworth announced that Oktoberfest has been canceled this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, and the Christmas lighting festival in December has been nixed as well.

The announcements don’t come as much of a surprise, considering the pandemic continues to be a major problem across the state, particularly in that neck of the woods. Chelan County (where Leavenworth is located) is still stuck in phase 1.5 of Washington’s “Safe Start” plan, which bans gatherings of more than five people outside the household. To date, the county has recorded close to 400 COVID cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days, 1,692 confirmed cases total, and 10 deaths.

Note that Washington has set a goal for counties to reach 25 or fewer cases per 100,000 people in order to advance to less restrictive phases, and Chelan falls far short. By comparison, King County advanced to phase two back in June, and currently has 80 cases per 100,000 people. Given the numbers and recent COVID outbreaks in various counties, Gov. Jay Inslee has put an indefinite pause on any county advancing to further phases, so it seems prudent for Leavenworth to limit visitors and mitigate the risk of transmission.

But for those who enjoyed trekking out to the central Washington town for brats and beer, this is still a bummer, and will no doubt put a significant dent in the local economy. Each year, Leavenworth welcomes tens of thousands visitors for Oktoberfest, and just as many to the lighting ceremony, not to mention the swarms of tourists that usually arrive around the holidays to take in the picturesque hamlet surrounded by the Cascades.

Troy Campbell, Leavenworth’s executive director at the Chamber of Commerce, tells Eater Seattle that restaurants in town are still open and trying their best to stay afloat, with limited outdoor seating (at 25 percent), and that the village will still be lit up with lights around Christmas time. But the COVID metrics did not favor planning for large gatherings later on in the year. “Even if we were in phase four by December, we can’t have 20,000 people standing shoulder to shoulder,” he says.

Closer to home, both the Fremont and Kirkland 2020 Oktoberfest events have been canceled as well (both are looking ahead to 2021 already). But there are still a few options in the German beer hall vein for takeout and delivery, with limited indoor and outdoor seating. Among them are Capitol Hill’s Rein Haus (which has a Leavenworth outpost), Queen Anne Beer Hall, and Prost in Phinney Ridge, though it’s likely many more breweries and beer bars around Seattle will introduce some Oktoberfest specials when the time comes.