Emory Bryan, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Tulsa's Oktoberfest is in new hands this year - after low attendance last year put the future of the festival in doubt.

The setup continued only hours before the gates were to open on Oktoberfest 2011. This year's festival has more advance tickets sold than ever before for the first night - with a crowd over the weekend expected to top 50,000 people.

"All of our entertainment tents sold out very early," said Tonja Pitzer, River Parks Authority. "We have our sports cafe sold out, and we sold out another tent, just to accommodate the crowds here tonight."

The new demand for tickets comes after a new effort to promote the festival from River Parks. This year - River Parks has taken over control of the festival from the non-profit that was running it before, but which was short on money after last year.

"The festival needed additional resources, and River Parks and Oktoberfest Inc. working together is the best way for this festival to continue," Pitzer said.

The transition took place early this year - giving River Parks enough time to boost promotion, improve some of the tents and add to the entertainment options. About 2,000 volunteers are helping - and it's still both a festival and fundraiser for the parks.

"You come out to Oktoberfest, and you're doing the chicken dance and sampling foods you might not try, and 30 beverages, some from Germany - you come out once, and it's not like anything you've ever seen in Tulsa," she said.

River Parks plans to continue building up the festival in the next few years, and already this year has added a major new tent, a fun run on Friday and a new multi - night pass that sells for $40.

"It's a smooth transition - the public won't notice a thing," said RiverParks Authority spokesperson Tonja Pitzer.