If you were fortunate enough to have been stationed in Germany, you will undoubtedly have come across one of their many Oktoberfests. While the Oktoberfest in Munich is the best known, many regions in Germany offer some form of the fall festival. With food, rides and of course, the glorious Krugs of beer, Oktoberfests are a delightful way to spend a day or a weekend. While Munich is the largest Oktoberfest festival, Stuttgart’s Canstatter Volksfest is the second largest. When we were stationed in Stuttgart, I never left a Volksfest thinking, “If only it were bigger, and had more beer.” Not once.
When we returned from Germany, I didn’t know quite what to do with my lederhosen. I’m glad I had them, but were they just going to sit in my closet? Halloween costume? Cold weather insulation? Lawn mowing outfit? However, I hadn’t counted on my fellow Americans to have embraced the German culture to such an uproarious degree. When Oktoberfest season rolled around last year, there were a number of festivals we attended. Proudly wearing the lederhosen, I was often confused with being a member of the performing bands or dance troupes. Or at least that was my takeaway when they would never actually charge me for beer. “Hey”, I thought, “These things will pay for themselves in a couple of years.”
Make no mistake, American Oktoberfests do not compete with those in Germany. A German beer tent (the major festivals will have 10 – 14 massive cathedrals of drinking) will hold thousands of revelers, each belting out bloozy renditions of traditional folk and pop favorites. Toward the end of every evening, nearly every table is packed with people standing on both the tables and benches, waving their beer steins in inebriated synchronicity. Such sublime buffoonery would never fly in America. But in Germany, it was nice to see the organizers embrace the idea that the Good Lord takes care of drunks and fools. Oktoberfests have both in spades.
This weekend, Frederick will host its annual Oktoberfest at the Frederick Fair Grounds. They put on quite an extensive production, with outdoor and indoor beer tents, plenty of food, and many activities for the kids. Our first trip last year was a bit underwhelming for me, due to the downpour all weekend and the fact that Mommy was ‘working’ on some TDY in San Diego. With our three young kids, I wasn’t able to partake in any late night sing-alongs. But, with a decent forecast this weekend, I hope to take full advantage of my lederhosen, scarf some schnitzel and brats, and…what was that other thing Oktoberfest is famous for?...Oh yeah, and possibly try a beer. Visit their website: http://www.frederickoktoberfest.org/. If you’re interested in other Oktoberfests throughout the DC region, http://dc.about.com/od/specialevents/a/Oktoberfests.htm will let you know the ‘what/where/when’ of a festival near you. I’m sure that some of these will be more ‘traditional’ and some will be less raucous. But I’m sure they’re all worth checking out.
At this point, I don’t want to get all preachy on you, telling you not to drink and drive, have a designated driver, or not to let your kids turn into free-range children, etc. So I won’t. But I will tell you this: Bring cash. Oktoberfest is where disposable income goes to die.