HARRISONBURG — Orange lederhosen T-shirts, polka music, bratwurst and craft beer — all things that kicked off The Arc of Harrisonburg and Rockingham’s annual Arctoberfest German Beer and Wine Festival.
Arctoberfest is a fundraiser for The Arc of Harrisonburg and Rockingham, a nonprofit that has supported people with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1962. The organization is a local affiliate of The Arc of Virginia and The Arc of the U.S., and provides day-support programs as well as in-home care.
While the event gives people the chance to play games and partake in Oktoberfest festivities, it is a key component of The Arc’s funding.
In 2011, the Department of Justice sent a letter to Virginia stating that the Commonwealth failed to provide services to individuals with intellectual and development disabilities housed in state facilities — receiving a ranking of 49 out of the 50 states, according to Heather Denman, executive director of The Arc.
Needing to improve, Virginia and the DOJ reached a settlement in 2012 that would create approximately 4,200 homes and community-based waivers for people on waitlists for community services and those transiting from institutions, according to the settlement.
The agreement would also create an $800,000 fund for housing assistance to facilitate opportunities for independent living for those with developmental disabilities.
Denman said Arctoberfest helps to raise awareness about those with disabilities while also raising funds for the organization’s programs.
The event had many firsts, a major one being the new location in downtown in the parking lot between Jess’ Lunch and Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint. Those at day-support homes were able to attend the event.
“We made an effort to have an inclusive event,” Denman said. “We wanted to have the opportunity for people to interact with those with disabilities. We put up a sensory tent. We have language interpreters and companion dogs here.”
Denman said she was hoping to raise $20,000 during the fundraiser, which hundreds of people attended throughout the day.
“It just has to build up,” Denman said.
For mother and daughter Lori and Lindsey White, the event was an unexpected treat.
Lori White, of Smithfield, said she was visiting her daughter for her birthday when they came across the event online. Lindsey White, a graduate of James Madison University and Radford University, is a social worker, which made the event close to home.
Brandon Ho, of Northern Virginia, said he was visiting his girlfriend, who had volunteered to set up the event Saturday morning. After volunteering, the two came back later in the evening to enjoy the festivities.
“It is a great event, and it is good to bring something like this to Harrisonburg and bring awareness,” Ho said.