Oktoberfest Organizers Prepare For High Winds, Remember Past Destruction

Friday, October 20th 2017, 6:17 pm
By: News On 6

Our Oklahoma weather experts said we could see 70 mph winds in Tulsa this weekend. 

That has organizers at Oktoberfest taking precautions right now, to make sure history doesn't repeat itself. 

More than 40 people got hurt when severe storms caused two tents to collapse at Oktoberfest 10 years ago.

Over 50,000 people are expected to be in Tulsa for Oktoberfest and festival organizers said safety is a priority to make sure what happened here a decade ago, doesn't happen again. 

"Everybody in the place was trying to run out of there at the same time and cars were all blocking the road," said Tulsa Firefighter Scott Tarwater.

Tarwater and his crew were having dinner when they got a call they weren't expecting; a tent had collapsed at Oktoberfest. 

"We were tasked with trying to search the tent," he said.

A microburst knocked down one of the largest tents at the festival, trapping hundreds of people inside.

"You'd bend down, it was about as tall as me in there you could get in there and walk around but the stage was in there, tables, everything so you just had to go around," Tarwater said. 

"There was some pretty bad injuries but most of the people were running out just freaking out," he said. 

More than 40 people were injured that night.

It's a tragedy Festival Director Tonja Carrigg and her team have worked hard to prevent from ever happening again.

"The festival itself, the grounds, the equipment, the flooring ... have changed substantially since that time," Carigg said. 

"We are always, always monitoring the weather and in touch with professionals who can guide us on how to respond in the event of bad weather," she said. 

Carigg said the festival tents are even different, they are sturdier and made by a completely different company than the tents in 2007. 

"We have more than 14 acres of space here at Riverparks and every ounce is filled activities, entertainment, food, beverages, lots to do," she said, "It's for families...it's all about community."

The festival ends Sunday so if you don't have tickets yet you can get them online or at the gate.