Celebrate German culture at Oktoberfest

Portland dancers Emily Ernst McLaughlin and Joshua McLaughlin twirl in a traditional German dance. Photo courtesy of Jerry Lauzon

Looking for a good music festival? Interested in finding the best bratwurst this side of the Mississippi? Young, single college students seeking dancing partners? All of the above?
Then Oktoberfest is the event for you.
“I’ve been to Oktoberfest [in Mount Angel, Ore.,] every year since I can remember,” junior Katrina Amsberry said. “It’s just a lot of fun. I’m definitely going again next year.”

What is Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest is a traditional harvest festival originating from a German tradition that began in Munich on Oct. 12, 1810. According to www.ofest.com, a young royal couple was getting married and hosted a horse-racing tournament to celebrate. It was so popular that they decided to repeat it again the following year. Thus, Oktoberfest was born.
Oktoberfest in Munich is the largest festival in the world and lasts for 16 days. This year is the 200th anniversary of the festival.
“Only wars and cholera epidemics have briefly interrupted the yearly beer celebration,” according to www.ofest.com.
Why does Oktoberfest take place in September?
The festival in Munich traditionally begins 16-18 days before the first Sunday in October. In many American towns, Oktoberfest lasts fewer days but begins at the same time.
In Mount Angel, Oktoberfest took place from Sept. 16-19.
Amsberry, Linfield Activities Board cultural events chair, took a group of students, including sophomore Kate McMullan, to Oktoberfest on Sept. 18.

Performers play German horn’s. Photo courtesy of Jerry Lauzon

What is there to see at Oktoberfest?
“The whole atmosphere was amazing,” McMullan said. “Lots of German music from the different bands scattered around, lots of beer places, lots of good food.”
Since 1810, Oktoberfest has grown into more than a horserace. The Mount Angel festival consistently offers spectacles such as:
• Webentanz (cute kids in German costumes dancing around the Maypole)
• Arts and crafts (It’s never too early to buy Mom’s Christmas gift)
• Biergarten (Food, live music, beer and dancing: What more can you need?)
• Weingarten (Biergarten but G-rated)
• Alpinegarten (Weingarten without the food)
• Kindergarten (children’s entertainment for the inner — or outer — children in us.)
• Die fruchtsaule (a monument in the center of the festival that symbolizes the harvest and the beauty of creation)
• St. Mary Church concerts
Sports competitions, including softball, volleyball, golf and 10K/5K runs.
• Cruz-n Car Show
• Bandstand (polka dancing in the streets and amateurs attempting to yodel)

Photo courtesy of Jerry Lauzon

íCats at the fest
“You can pick and choose what you want to do while you are there,” Amsberry said. “Dancing, music, food, looking at crafts and vendors.”
Amsberry said she has been attending Oktoberfest since chiledhood. She volunteered in an ice cream booth that benefits St. Michael the Archangel for the Salem Right to Life.
“My parents were involved, and it was fun, so I kept doing it,” Amsberry said. “It’s fun to take a group of friends to help. We get to eat all the mess-ups and the special creations that blossom from the mess-ups.”
She said that the booth makes ice cream cones, marionberry sundaes, shortcake and cinnamon rolls.
“The cinnamon rolls are the main thing,” she said. “They are the best rolls ever.”
McMullan agreed.
“Not all the food was German food,” she said. “There was bratwurst, but the ice cream and cinnamon rolls were really good. We got a lot of free food.”
Amsberry said that she likes to take a group that is willing to help in the ice cream booth and then take time to walk around and enjoy the festivities.
Many of the vendors at the Mount Angel Oktoberfest are raising money for nonprofit organization, as Amsberry’s family raises money for the Salem Right to Life. Mount Angel Oktoberfest has donated more than $2.25 million to civic organizations, hospitals, schools and other nonprofits. Oktoberfest is the largest fundraiser for many individual charities that run food booths, such as the ice cream booth for Salem Right to Life. In 2009, groups made a gross profit of $638,000.
McMullan said she also enjoyed walking around and seeing each part of the festival.
“People were getting really into it,” she said. “It was crowded all day.”
Both McMullan and Amsberry said that they enjoyed people-watching and seeing the traditional costumes.
“There were a lot of people wearing lederhosen [knee-length traditional German shorts, often attached to suspenders],” she said. “There were even shops where you could buy your own.”

Photo courtesy of Jerry Lauzon

The people of the town take pride in their German heritage, and that is reflected in the authenticity of their festival. White and blue lozenge flags hang from buildings, just as they do in Munich. Their Glockenspiel is located in the center of town, celebrating “Mount Angel’s rich history, Germanic culture, and [their] world famous Oktoberfest,” according to www.Oktoberfest.org. It features a giant clock on top that plays music every day at 11 a.m. and at 1, 4 and 7 p.m. and features beautifully carved figures and designs below.
Mount Angel was founded by German immigrants in the 1830s. Its name comes from the German name Engelberg, the city in Switzerland in which Mount Angel’s first reverend received his theological training.
The Mount Angel Oktoberfest began in 1966 and is Oregon’s oldest harvest festival. In 2010, its 45th anniversary was a smashing success. The 2011 festival will begin Sept. 15.

story by Rachel Mills/Freelancer
Rachel Mills can be reached at linfieldreviewfeatures@gmail.com.

1 Comment on Celebrate German culture at Oktoberfest

  1. Robert Wilson // October 18, 2010 at 1:10 am //

    thanks for the post

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