Get your pitchers ready because Oktoberfest is back with a bang.

The sixth annual Phoenix Old World Oktoberfest will kick off in downtown at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The event is hosted by the Arizona Center for Germanic Cultures, or AC4GC, and is partnering with members of Grace Lutheran Church in Phoenix. AC4GC started the event in 2006 because it wanted to introduce local Arizonans to Germanic traditions and cultures.

Christine Colley, vice president for AC4GC, said that more than 3,200 people attended the festival last year, and that proceeds from the festival will benefit the educational initiatives at AC4GC.

"The authenticity of the event is our pride," Colley said.

Colleen O'Donnell Pierce, a current member of the board of directors for AC4GC, said the center has a goal to bring German cultural experiences to life for Arizonans and guests to the state.

Unlike many other Oktoberfest events, O'Donnell Pierce said the main focus of this event is on culture, not just the beer. That being said, there are several varieties of imported German beer, provided by Warsteiner, including the traditional Oktoberfest Bier, Dunkeles Bier and Pilsner. Warsteiner's award-winning Hefeweizen, which garnered the "Most Refreshing Beer" award at the Great Arizona Beer Festival in 2010, will also be provided.

"Visitors can experience what it feels like to be German for a day," O'Donnell Pierce said. "Everyone who comes can be transported by the sights, sounds and aromas, and truly have a taste of what German culture and Oktoberfest is all about."

O'Donnell Pierce said that the celebration of the festival is a 201-year-old tradition. The contests are free to enter and for adults and kids alike. These include dance contests, alphorn blowing, men's and women's beer stein holding, and a best traditional costume contest.

This Oktoberfest is not entirely aimed at adults, according to O'Donnell Pierce, who a children's area, or Kinder Village, will be available for free and is designed for kids of all ages. The area will include a bounce castle, rock-climbing wall and other attractions, including an inflatable Arizona Diamondbacks baseball pitch.

O'Donnell Pierce said that music is a huge part of the experience, and that a band from Germany is flown in every year for the event. In addition, she said the band interacts with the crowd and that there is a sense of brotherhood, which emerges from participating in Oktoberfest.

Visitors can taste authentic German food such as bratwursts, wieners, sauerkraut, potato salad, and a traditional German pig roast, Pierce said. Also, apple strudel and German treats from a variety of vendors will be featured.

"Guests can interact with Germans who live in Arizona, as well as people from anywhere around the world," O'Donnell Pierce said.

The Phoenix Old World Oktoberfest is at Margaret T. Hance Park, 1134 N. Central Ave., and will end at 9 p.m. on Oct. 15. Admission is $5, but it's free to children under the age of 12.

• Kirsten Hillhouse is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.

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