Riverwalk Crossing Park • Jacksonville
10/22, 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Free, with food, arts and crafts for sale!
There is no greater party or for celebration than when its purpose whole-heartedly aims toward helping a greater community cause. This year Jacksonville’s Oktoberfest gives everyone the perfect reason to party: the Onslow Community Outreach Center (OCOC)! Set for October 22nd at the Riverwalk Crossing Park, Oktoberfest brings with it a celebration of fun along with proceeds benefiting the OCOC. Beginning at 8 a.m. with a 5K run, festival gates will open at 10 a.m., kicking off with a beautiful flag presentation followed by the National Anthem. Scheduled to remain open until 9 p.m., Oktoberfest welcomes all ages and over 100 vendors.
From cookie decorating to face painting, pottery sales to a petting zoo, photo booths to an adult and children’s race track, provided by Jacksonville Rotary South, to a trackless train ride around the park, this year’s Oktoberfest will keep everyone engaged. Even McGruff the fire dog and Elvis are scheduled to make an appearance. Add to it a large selection of traditional bratwurst and German beers, and it’s a fest for all the senses.
Last year, the event saw 8,000 people come through. This year, Karin Hudson, who oversees Oktoberfest, is expecting 10,000. A military wife of 16 years, now stationed at Camp Johnson, Hudson assures not a single penny will go to waste as it will fund pillows and blankets needed for the shelter, as well as food for the soup kitchen or crucial medical supplies for the clinic.
Located downtown on Court Street in an old department store, the Onslow Community Outreach Center started 25 years ago inside a small garage, with just a handful of local people helping run it as a soup kitchen. Today it has evolved tenfold, and proudly serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday. It has grown to include the homeless shelter, which has approximately 15 beds, and a community care clinic that helps heal men, women and their families.
“I have faith in the planning we’ve done,” Hudson beams. “It’s for a fantastic cause. I understand, with the way of the economy, everyone is trying to stay afloat, and we noticed it even in our planning stages. Still, so many have come along to help, and we are so thankful. If it wasn’t for the volunteers in the community just wanting to do a good deed, we wouldn’t have half of what we do. Riverwalk Crossing Park has gone through a lot and has come a long way to beautify downtown.”
A haven for those who need a place to stay—though, there is a 30-day cap—the shelter is a gem. Its staff tirelessly helps others by researching jobs, affordable apartments, and they also help provide job referrals. Mostly run on grants and donations, Hudson says she has high hopes for the shelter in the upcoming years. For example, she would love to add more beds and more locations to increase its service to those in need.
“You don’t give up the fight even though it’s not always a winning battle,” she says. “When the doors open, you see the faces you’re helping. We’re not going to give up on those faces.”
When we met, it was just before 3 p.m., when the shelter opens. People were gathering under the awning to get out of the dreary weather.
“These individuals deserve a chance,” Hudson says. “Oktoberfest being our only fund-raiser is a way to support Onslow Community Outreach, so that we can in turn support those in need within our community. Our sponsors have been great; we’re not going to walk out with a million dollars, but we are going to walk out knowing we helped a lot of people in our community, and we had a good time doing it.”
For more information on how to make monetary or tangible donations beyond Oktoberfest, please call (910) 455-5733. Visit www.onslowco.org for more information.