WHITEFISH — The 11th annual Great Northwest Oktoberfest in Whitefish is canceled this year due to COVID-19 concerns.
The popular two-weekend event -- which usually takes place the last weekend of September and the first weekend of October -- normally attracts visitors from across the country.
The Whitefish Chamber of Commerce -- which organizes the event -- said the festival can host up to 1,500 attendees on a given night. Whitefish Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kevin Gartland said the big crowds would make social distancing close to impossible.
‘You have people standing in line for a beer, standing in line to get food, standing in line to get in-and-out at the porta-potty’s, the rest of the time they’re on the dance floor, they’re jammed up close to the stage," he explained. "And that’s the excitement of it, that’s what makes it popular and that’s what makes it not really wise to do this year."
He added that the Chamber will take a hit financially from not hosting this year’s festival which is the third of the four big special that have been called off. “Yeah it’s going to take a hit on us, it’s probably about a third of our revenue for the year that we’ve lost from special events this year."
Gartland notes that as long as the coronavirus allows, the festival will be back as planned next year at Whitefish’s Depot Park, "We’re looking forward to 2021 and coming back in a big way."