October Feast
9/20/2010
Millions turn into honorary Deutschers during autumn's Oktoberfests. Try these eight authentically German places to get your bratwurst and Bier.
Oompah, bratwurst, hot pretzels, dark beer… ahh, the much-honored German tradition of Oktoberfest. It all started in Munich as a wedding celebration for Prince Ludwig I and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen on the second-to-last weekend of September 1810. The party was such a hit that it blossomed into an annual fall harvest festival. Munich's Oktoberfest (<www.oktoberfest.de>), where 7 million visitors wash down innumerable sausages, roasted chickens and pork knuckles with 14 million mass (liters of beer), runs Sept. 14 to Oct. 3 this year. Admission is free.

With about 500,000 revelers, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati (800-246-9872, <www.oktoberfest-zinzinnati.com>), in Cincinnati, ranks as the world's second-largest Oktoberfest. Cincinnatians—who call part of their city Over the Rhine, after its original German residents—get competitive about their event: In 1994, 48,000 people tossed dignity aside and flapped their way to a record for the World's Largest Chicken Dance. This year's free celebration takes place downtown Sept. 18 and 19.

If a small-town celebration is more your speed, head to North Dakota, where 61 percent of residents have German ancestors. The New Leipzig Annual Oktoberfest (701-584-2278, <www.newleipzig.com>) has beer-stein races, a nail-pounding competition and a Biggest Grasshopper Contest. Hop over to Main Street Sept. 24 to 26 for the free festivities.

La Crosse, Wis., home to eight German-American-owned breweries in the late 19th century, has celebrated Oktoberfest, USA (608-784-3378, <www.oktoberfestusa.com>) since 1961. It now welcomes 175,000 visitors to LaCrosse Festgrounds annually (Sept. 24 to Oct. 2 this year). Parades — the Maple Leaf Parade, the Kids Day Parade and the Torchlight Parade — are the La Crosse party's claim to fame. Admission buttons cost $5; hats cost $20. Children 12 and under get in free.

Michigan's “Little Bavaria,” Frankenmuth, first celebrated Oktoberfest (800-386-8696, <www.frankenmuthfestivals.com/index.php/oktoberfest>) in 1990 to mark Germany's reunification. A representative from the town's German sister city, Gunzenhausen, helps cut the ceremonial ribbon; the first keg tapping follows. Don't miss the quaint Alpine-style architecture on Main Street. Most events take place at Heritage Park Sept. 16 to 19. Admission costs $6; it's free for kids 15 and under.

The German settlers who founded Fredericksburg, Texas, in 1846 named their town for the Prussian prince. Although their descendants didn't start celebrating Fredericksburg's Oktoberfest (830-997-4810, <www.oktoberfestinfbg.com>) until 1981, the festival is a German heritage showcase. Oct. 1 to 3, Marketplatz will host 25-plus oompah bands, polka and waltz contests, local artisans, a Kinder Park for little ones and the requisite German Bier tent. Admission costs $6 for adults and $1 for kids ages 6 to 12.

More than one in five Tulsa, Okla., residents claim German heritage. About 200,000 of them and their friends turn out for Bier Barrel Racing, carnival rides, a Polka Mass and a Volksmarsch at Tulsa Oktoberfest (918-744-9700, <www.tulsaoktoberfest.org>)— named by USA Today as one of 10 great places to toast Oktoberfest worldwide. Join the revelers Oct. 21 to 24 at River West Festival Park. Admission costs $3; children ages 12 and under get in free.

Leavenworth, Wash., a charming Bavarian-village look-alike, adds a used Bavarian clothing sale to its annual Oktoberfest (509-548-7021, <www.leavenworthoktoberfest.com>), held downtown Oct. 1 and 2, and 8 and 9. You also can work off the carbs from all that dark beer in the Oktoberun run/walk. Oktoberfest admission costs $5 on Friday and $7 on Saturday; children under 12 enter free with an adult. 
 
For more help discovering your family history in Germany, see Family Tree Magazine's German Genealogy Guide Digital Download, available from ShopFamilyTree.com
 
From the October 2004 Family Tree Magazine