Beer, Brats, And Om-Pa-Pa Returned For 2nd Annual Lakeland Swantoberfest
by James Coulter
For the second consecutive year, Downtown Lakeland was transformed into Bavaria with beer, brats, and lively om-pa-pa music during the annual Suncoast Credit Union SwantoberFest on Saturday.
The Oktoberfest event allowed attendees to enjoy a “wunderbar” time in Munn Park with sausages, hot dogs, and other food prepared and served by the Interact Club, and with many hard beers and ciders, including German beers such as Beck, served at the central Bier Tent.
While enjoying their beer and brats, attendees could immerse themselves with German culture with a mustache competition, and authentic German music as performed by the Europa band. Children meanwhile could enjoy age-appropriate fun within the Kids Zone with inflatable games and other activities.
New this year was a brand new VIP experience provided by sponsor MyBox. At the special VIP section, guests could enjoy beverages and other treats within special two-floor modular trailers with a bar on the bottom and a special viewing area on top.
This year saw an even greater turnout than the inagural event last year, with more tickets being sold and more people circulating through the beer and feast lines, explained Amber Aaron, Director of Programs & Events at the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce.
The Lakeland Chamber has been partnering with Suncoast Credit Union to host the annual event. One the biggest challenges of pulling off such an event is gathering the resources and budget available; in the end, being able to pull off such a collaborative effort proves rewarding, Aaron said.
“That is what it is all about: it is pulling people together for something positive to support the community,” she said. “I enjoy chamber work and events are a passion of mine. So for this event, this is brand new to me, and it is real good to see it all coming together.”
Suncoast Credit Union has been hosting the event as a way to help give back to their community. The credit union had recently opened two branches in the county, with a branch in North and South Lakeland respectively.
Kristen Pepper, Vice President of Service Center Operations, appreciates how the event allows her business to achieve its goal of giving back to the community, as well as allow her to see the community in action.
“We are so passionate about the community and investing within it,” she said. “That is part of our mission: meeting people, improving lives, and that is what we have done today. It has been a big success and we hope to grow it bigger next year.”
Janette McElwain, Community Relations Specialist, also loves how the event allows her company to participate within the community, seeing how much they have helped make a difference within it.
“I love just seeing the heart of the community,” she said. “It is a great opportunity for Suncoast to give back in our mission, and we love having the chance to meet and network with the community.”