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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Hundreds turned out on a perfect fall afternoon Saturday for Yokota’s Oktoberfest, a bash that featured free food, live music, bratwurst and beer.

The German-style celebration was thrown on the heels of the grueling, weeklong Operational Readiness Exercise at the base.

Held outside the Sakura Shell activities area on Yokota’s east side, it also included such youth amusements as pumpkin painting, cookie decorating, game booths, cupcake walks and bouncy castles. There were contests and prize giveaways, while people also lined up for free “Oktoberfest” T-shirts, courtesy of the 374th Services Division.

“I came out to get some free food and buy some German beer,” said Airman 1st Class Phillip Taylor of the 374th Operations Support Squadron. “There’s a lot more people here than I thought there’d be. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.”

A dinner was served with bratwurst, knockwurst, German rolls, potato salad, sauerkraut, apple strudel and German chocolate cake. Water and sodas were free, but sales of Lowenbrau draft beer were brisk. Kids grabbed hot dogs, potato chips and Sno Cones.

Ronie Daney, 44, a civilian working for U.S. Forces Japan at Yokota, said he spent most of his 20-year Army career in Germany.

“Going to Oktoberfest was just a normal part of life,” he said. “I’d go to the one in Munich. That was the largest Oktoberfest for Germany.

“I wanted to see what this one was like. I’m enjoying the food, hanging out with some friends ... We’re very much having a good time.”

Senior Airman John Ward of the 374th Operations Support Squadron, who’s also president of Yokota’s Junior Enlisted Council, tried rock-climbing on an inflatable wall set up in the festival area.

“It’s challenging because the rocks always move on you. They deflate when you step on them. But it’s fun,” he said. “The food is at a good price. I just wanted to get out of the room for a night, come out and see some of the other people on base.”

As the sun set Saturday evening, Staff Sgt. Rogelio Gutierrez of the 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and his wife, Tiffany, enjoyed a couple of cold mugs of Lowenbrau while walking the festival grounds.

“It’s good just to unwind,” he said. “Been a hectic week with the exercise ... It’s our first Oktoberfest here. We’re having a blast.”

Added Tiffany: “We thought it’d be fun to come out and mingle. They did a nice job putting this together. It’s great with so many people from the community coming out to an event like this.”

The couple, both wearing green Oktoberfest hats, held out a digital camera and snapped a photo of themselves.

“We might use that for our Christmas card this year,” Tiffany said.

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