|WB&T’s Oktoberfest celebrating 25 years|
|Wednesday, September 19, 2012|
Oktoberfest at Wilson Bank & Trust is a tradition nearly as long-running as the bank itself.
And in the past quarter century, it’s seen nearly as much growth and change as the banking industry.
This fall, WB&T’s signature event will officially celebrate its 25th year of bringing festival-like family fun to the people of Lebanon, Wilson County and beyond. But its roots actually go back a little farther, to the same year Wilson Bank & Trust opened its doors.In 1987, after only a few months in business, Wilson Bank & Trust was still in its infancy. It was the only locally-based option for financial services, and its founders wanted to build on that reputation by holding a gathering for local residents to enjoy, a recreational opportunity representative of the bank’s commitment to the Lebanon community. The solution was a two-fold experiment.
First, WB&T organized a 5K run through the nearby streets on a Saturday morning in September, which helped raise money for the local high school track team. Plenty of runners came out to be part of it. The next day, on Sunday afternoon, the bank hosted a car show on the Castle Heights football field. That event also featured a live band, an apple bake-off, a coloring contest for kids and an investment seminar. On display were brand new 1988 model automobiles from local dealerships and antiques from a regional auto club (whose membership included Wilson Bank CEO Randall Clemons).The football field filled up with cars, employees grilled burgers for the guests, and a good crowd of people enjoyed themselves.
On both fronts, the weekend was deemed a success.
The next year, an idea was hatched to continue both efforts as a combined event and give the occasion a name. So it was that in fall 1988, WB&T’s first Oktoberfest took place, and a tradition was born.
The core elements of Oktoberfest carried over, and most of them continue today (though on a larger scale). The location remains WB&T’s Main Office at 623 West Main Street. The car show is still a highlight of Oktoberfest on Sunday, although more than 400 cars can now be expected to fill up the lawn on the west side of the bank during good weather. Food is still a big attraction, but now it’s served by a multitude of local vendors instead of being prepared by bank employees. There’s still live music, now enough of it to fill a weekend. The Oktoberfest 5K continued for many years, but has recently given way to Sherry’s Run a little earlier in the year. Above all, the basic concept of Oktoberfest is still the same: to give friends, neighbors and customers a chance to enjoy good, clean fun with their local bankers.
Still, with many opportunities to expand, Oktoberfest has grown and changed more than anyone could’ve imagined 25 years ago. The entire bank campus and surrounding grounds are transformed for Oktoberfest weekend, and nearly every foot is used for housing a neighborhood of inflatable games, craft booths, tents, demonstrators and displays. The space required for the event attractions has shifted all parking to nearby lots and satellite locations. The gazebo hosts entertainment acts all day, while another stage is home to a youth talent show. And of course, the crowds have continued to grow, with attendance estimates now measured in thousands.
Each year, something new and different can be seen at Oktoberfest. In 2002, auditions for the Wheel of Fortune game show took place there. In the past few years, a toddler play area and a mobile gaming station were added. Last year, after-hours hot air balloon rides were offered.
Oktoberfest’s history will be celebrated at this year’s event with birthday activities between 2:30 and 3 p.m. at the gazebo near the Main Office building. Cake will be served, and the WB&T choir will perform.
While years of expansion have made it difficult in many ways to compare today’s Oktoberfest with its ancestor from 25 years ago, visitors of any age are still sure to find something that interests or entertains them – and it continues to fulfill the purpose Wilson Bank & Trust established for two small gatherings in 1987.
Oktoberfest 2012 takes place Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 20-21, at the Main Office of Wilson Bank & Trust at 623 West Main Street in Lebanon. Event hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free. Tickets or entry fees may apply to some activities.