INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — Organizers of this year’s Oktoberfest on the Beach were concerned the turnout would be smaller than usual for the return of the long-running event, held on Saturday, Oct. 23.

After the pandemic forced the cancellation of the popular Bavarian-themed beer festival last year, officials with Action 2000 IRB decided to downsize the footprint of the event this year, eliminating about 10 vendor spots as well as the giant beer tent that served as the center point of the event.

But a combination of summer-like weather and a desire to hang outside drinking beer near the beach brought big crowds to Kolb Park for the return of Oktoberfest, and while the free, six-hour event didn’t break any records, it was a welcome return for one of IRB’s longest-running signature events.

“We don’t want people falling all over each other,” IRB commissioner and de facto Oktoberfest photographer Phil Hanna said from the scene of the stein carrying contest, which was won by local resident Curtis Breckenridge. “So, this is the perfect-sized crowd. It’s good for the vendors, good for the visitors, good for the merchants and good for IRB. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Indeed, the sight of Kolb Park jammed packed with people of all ages, eating food supplied by Crabby Bills, BayStar Restaurant Group, Maine-iac Lobster Rolls and more while enjoying traditional Oktoberfest music, dancing and, of course, beer, was a sight for the eyes of IRB Mayor Joanne “Cookie” Kennedy following a summer filled with talk of red tide, vacation rental regulations, and flood insurance.

“The 2021 Oktoberfest was an incredible success,” Kennedy said by text the next day. “It was nice to see people walking, enjoying the food, music, vendors and games. We couldn’t have asked for a better day!”