Oktoberfest: A German Tradition Alive and Kicking in America
September 20, 2012 | Permalink
For many people (people interested in German culture and German food, beer drinkers, and people who just appreciate a good party), the end of September and beginning of October means Oktoberfest. This long-running festival, which was first held in 1810 in celebration of the wedding of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese, has continued to bring joy to Germans and non-Germans alike for over 200 years. Today, though the festival retains the German spelling of its name and it is still held in Theresienwiese—the meadow in Munich where it was first held—Oktoberfest is a worldwide celebration. It is no longer just the camaraderie of the German community of Munich that is celebrated, but it is also the camaraderie of the people of many cities, towns and villages, and of the global village generally.
Oktoberfest by the Bay
San Francisco’s Oktoberfest by the Bay (held Friday, 9/28 through Sunday, 9/30) is about as authentic as an American Oktoberfest gets. This is the real thing. You’ll see plenty of dirndls and Tyrolean hats spinning around on the dance floor to the beat of the best oom-pah music around. The oom-pah sounds are provided by the excellent Chico Bavarian Band. Since Chico, California, was the stopping place for many German immigrants in the 19th century, the roots of German culture are deep there.
The event is held in Pier 48, which is right on the San Francisco Bay and affords wonderful views of the water and of beautiful AT&T Park—home of the San Francisco Giants. It just so happens that back in 1810, Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese picked the ideal time of year to throw Oktoberfest in San Francisco. September marks the beginning of San Francisco’s warm season, when the fog lifts, and the days are warm and clear.
Oktoberfest Denver (held on two consecutive weekends—9/21-23 and 9/28-30) attracts 450,000 visitors. This is not an intimate festival, but it is a very festive festival. There are all sorts of things to see and do, even if you’re not there for the beer. However, if you are there for the beer, you’re in luck (more on that momentarily).
The Sea of Accordions is a perennial favorite. If you think a few accordions played together is captivating, try many, many, many accordions played together. The blend of sound that they get is truly heavenly. As you sway to their German sounds, you will find yourself asking whether the angels actually play accordions and not harps.
If you’re a fan of cute dogs and of races (and who’s not a fan of at least one of those things?), the long dog derby is for you. This race, which takes the festival home on Sunday, 9/30, is a celebration of wiener dogs. This very unique-looking dog, also known as the dachshund, is of German origin. Watching a dachshund race is kind of like watching Greyhound busses race Mac trucks (that is, if busses and trucks were super-cute). It’s not to be missed.
Also not to be missed is the German beer. Make sure to bring your own beer stein (so you don’t have to pay $20 for a stein at the festival) and enjoy all the reasonable (just $7) refills you need to make your Oktoberfest optimally festive.
The perfect thing after a long day of festivities is a long night of rest and relaxation. The perfect place for R and R is a hotel with those little touches that remind you of home—like a kitchen where you can make your own dinner and free in-room Wi-Fi. Oktoberfest during the daytime and family time at night: Now that’s a recipe for a perfect vacation!
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