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Oktoberfest in Myrtle Beach grows to 3 days

In its third year, The Market Common's annual Oktoberfest Festival continues growing, with a third day added for 2010, and a root-beer relay race with only three rules:

Runners can't touch the growler, a bottle that holds the equivalent of four beers; contestants must stand straight up when pouring the liquid; and the first team to fill the growler wins.

This German festival in Myrtle Beach's Valor Memorial Garden, loaded with native music and more than 30 special beers to mark the start of autumn, opens tonight with a concert by The Paul Grimshaw Band, and continues through Sunday with entertainment by The Rheingold Band.

Reviewing how this festival has taken root since 2008, Hatton Gravely, spokeswoman for The Market Common, said the inaugural affair filled a Saturday, then a concert was added for Friday for a two-day event last year, and this year brings Sunday for a third day.

"We have a lot more food and a lot more beer choices," she said.

Festival officials also wanted to add a contest to this celebration.

"I looked at other Oktoberfests' [events], and this one looked like the most fun," she said of the relay.

Gravely said two restaurants participating in the festival - Gordon Biersch and King Street Grill - sent teams for a trial run, which resulted in some tweaking.

"The relay race will be fun and funny to watch," Gravely said.

After the signup at 2 p.m. Saturday, the games will begin. Gravely said officials probably will cap out the slate at 10 teams. "We might set it up as a tournament," she said. "We've already had people call in seeking entry for the relay race."

Also for all of Saturday afternoon, KidZone will include free face painting, balloon artistry and inflatable rides, and $5 pony rides.

Mike Shank, event promoter for The Market Common, said officials are glad to see the public reception to this growing Oktoberfest.

"We've tried every year to make it a more authentic German event," he said, citing the abundance of craft beers and wines, as well as the waitress outfits, to reflect the culture.

Shank credits about 25 Market Common employees and volunteers for teaming up on the endeavor.

Helen DeGennaro, general manager of Gordon Biersch, flashed her festive mood on Tuesday.

"This is the biggest celebration of the year for us," she said. "It keeps getting bigger and bigger."

One vital item on the eatery's checklist in planning for this weekend entailed ordering enough bratwurst. DeGennaro said that exceeds more than 1,000 servings.

"We'll have plenty of 1-liter mugs, too," she said.

She called this event "a family affair" within Gordon Biersch's staff of 30, "with all hands on deck Friday night through Sunday afternoon."

This tradition spurs a mind-set of smiles for DeGennaro.

"Nice weather, great beer and great beer," she said. "What's not to love?"