Oktoberfest may have its roots in Munich, but one need not fly to Germany to enjoy this fun-infused annual celebration. Fall means it’s time to break out that new wardrobe: sweaters, hats, scarves, and … lederhosen? Yes, autumn brings many splendid things like apple picking, Halloween, and pumpkin spice everything, but the leader of the pack is Oktoberfest, the German fall festival that celebrates everyone’s favorite things: food, beer, and merrymaking. If drinking beer and eating schnitzel alongside six million people is not very appealing, here are some of the places to celebrate at a slightly smaller scale in SoMinn.
NEW ULM OKTOBERFEST
New Ulm Chamber & CVB Marketing Specialist Sarah Warmka welcomes all to one of the best Oktoberfest celebrations in the entire nation. This traditional festival is modeled after one of the world’s largest celebrations, held each year for several centuries in Munich, Germany. New Ulm’s version, which commenced in 1981, takes place on Fri., Oct. 4, Sat., Oct. 5, Fri., Oct. 11, and Sat., Oct. 12, with festivities happening all over town. The main locations for Oktoberfest in 2019 are Historic Downtown, Best Western Plus, Morgan Creek Vineyards and Schell’s Brewery. Join the masses in historic downtown New Ulm for an Oktoberfest celebration in the streets. The first weekend features the Germanic-American Day Parade, which kicks off the downtown festival at 11 a.m., on Oct. 5. Organized by the New Ulm German-Bohemian Society, anyone who is proud of his or her Germanic heritage, is invited to march in the parade. The end of the parade route flows right into the Downtown Oktoberfest celebration, with music; a mix of traditional, polka, country, contemporary; German (and American) food, local beer (Schell’s/Grain Belt) and wine (Morgan Creek Vineyards/Doppeleichen Vineyards), and much more. “Games, horse-drawn trolley rides, a stein-holding contest and more, occur both Saturdays of Oktoberfest. Break out your dirndls and lederhosen and come join us!” urged Warmka. Music, food and dancing, are highlighted at all of the festival locations. There grape stomps and other events and activities all over town both weekends. Festivities abound at the Best Western Plus (see below). Head to Morgan Creek Vineyards on October 5, for STOMP New Ulm! (Morgan Creek Vineyards’ Oktoberfest Annual Grape Stomp); voted BEST Fall Event in Southern Minnesota, by Explore Southern Minnesota. It is the Harvest Festival with competitive grape-stomping – an honorable salute to the harvest season. Take off your shoes and get ready to dance. Traditional Morris Dancers and the Satori Belly Dancers perform on the winery grounds…dancing, stomping, and revelry throughout the afternoon. Schell’s Brewery knows how to throw a party, and their Schell’s Oktoberfest celebration, held on Saturday, October 12 this year, is no exception. Schell’s is a German Craft Beer company that was started by German settlers from New Ulm in 1860, so they know what they are doing when it comes to German festivals! Music, beer, and lederhosen abound! New this year: Schell’s is throwing an Oktoberfest Pre-Party on Friday, October 11, from 4:30-9:30 p.m. The New Ulm Oktoberfest celebration is a nationally-recognized affair. It was voted the best Oktoberfest in MN, by WCCO, and has been ranked among the best in the nation by USA TODAY, The Travel Channel, Midwest Living, and more. https://www.newulm.com/oktoberfest; 888-463-9856.
NEW ULM BEST WESTERN PLUS
The New Ulm Best Western Plus Hotel & Green Mill Restaurant is anchored by General Manager Erin Lafferty; and Chad Cooreman, Director of Sales & Catering. Oktoberfest started back at the Holiday Inn in 1981, when they opened the doors to this location, and this long-standing tradition has been a staple in New Ulm every year since then. The festival began as a small concert, poolside, but a bigger and better space was fashioned for guests attending the Rocktoberfest (born in 2016). The venue features a 200-foot heated tent in the parking lot, with fire pits, and live music every weekend. Inside, there is still a full lineup of polka/German music. “We are typically booked a year in advance for guest rooms, as the popularity of the Festival has grown each year,” Cooreman said. This year’s fun covers Friday, Oct. 4, Saturday, Oct. 5, Friday, Oct. 11, and Saturday, Oct. 12. The Best Western staff boasts a Fest Keg-opening on each Friday evening of the Oktoberfest celebration, and it takes place in the Grand Ballroom. They also serve extensive German concessions, including Land jaegers, sauerkraut, sauerbraten, sauerkraut soup, Bavarian pretzels, Rueben balls, spaetzle, bratwurst, and apple strudel. Beverages offered are a full Bier Garten, outside; with tap lines of Schell’s Oktoberfest, Schell’s Deer Brand, Schell’s Firebrick, Fort Road Helles, Grain Belt originals and Nordeast Beer. “We also offer 1919 root beer, specialty drinks inside the Green Mill Restaurant, and a full liquor bar outside in the tent,” said Cooreman. Festivities at the Best Western Plus include a complete schedule of “oom-pah!”- with performances by New Ulm’s famous Concord Singers, The Wendinger Band, Alpensterne, Dale Dahmen and the Polka Beats, and others. Best Western Plus has expanded its celebration and added an outdoor music event, spotlighting many popular bands. The celebration kicks off with the official keg opening on Friday evening, a tradition that is still practiced today in Germany’s Oktoberfest’s. The food and music continue late into the night on both Fridays and both Saturdays of Oktoberfest. For more information, visit:
This annual event (in its 12th year) is headed-up by Wabasha-Kellogg Chamber & CVB Executive Director Chrissy Dawson; and the SeptOberfest Committee, including Lorie Strombeck and Carolynn Klees. The festivities run from Sep. 6 to Oct. 26. One of the spotlighted weekends is October 18/19. In addition to the activities that take place every weekend, like carriage rides, kids’ activities, clowns, and more, there are special programs at the National Eagle Center and other fun events with various businesses around town. It’s the perfect weekend to bring the family to Wabasha and enjoy the festivities and fall colors. The decorations and displays set up during SeptOberfest are always a highlight for residents and visitors alike. Drive around town, or rent one of Wabasha’s public bikes, to take in the fall colors, including the phenomenal, multi-colored trees, and creative displays. Visit all five of Wabasha’s seasonal boutiques for shopping during SeptOberfest. Shop for gifts, décor, antiques, and more at Grandpa’s Barn Boutique, 5th Grant Boutique, Barton’s Brickhouse Boutique, the Anderson House, and Stonegate Studio & Gallery. Relax and meander through this small, mid-western river town, that showcases the fall season like no other. Imagine numerous, artistic displays of pumpkins, cornstalks, flowers, bales, and gourds, among the natural beauty of the winding river, vibrant trees and majestic bluffs. It is an explosion of color that you will remember for a lifetime. Crafters, artists, and farmers, use over 3,000 pumpkins, 5,000 corn stalks, scarecrows, straw bales, gourds, giant pumpkins, and squash; to build some of the most amazing topiaries and displays. “SeptOberfest is a great festival for visitors and residents alike, and it would not be possible without the generous support of all our sponsors and the dedication of our volunteers,” explained Dawson.
Waconia’s Oktoberfest Celebration is October 5. It is slated to be a big day, filled with lots of events like, 5K, car show, vendors, beer, liquor, German food, hammerschlagen, beer pong, tippy cup, brat toss, stein hoist, sauerkraut eating contest, pull tabs and Polka bands—ALL DAY (no break in the action). This is a real Oktoberfest, set in a 30,000 square foot pavilion, with fun all day long. “I think these days, people with a polka playlist and an Oktoberfest beer on tap, think they have an “Oktoberfest” and that is not the case. If you want to see the real deal, come to the Carver County fairgrounds on Sat. Oct. 5, and enjoy the action!” exclaimed spokesman Dan Precht. The fun lasts all day, at Carver County Fairgrounds in Waconia; from 10:30 a.m. – midnight; root beer run starts at 10:30 and dankeschoen dash starts at 11:00 a.m. Roll-in event starts at noon (classic car or motorcycle gets the driver in free). Oktoberfest tickets available at Hoppers in Waconia and Longhorns in Lester Prairie. Polka band plays continuous throughout the day, featuring “Live Wire”; plenty of German food, beer, vendors, cocktails, pull tabs, hammerschlagen, and much more (kid-friendly until 6:00 p.m.).
ST. PETER OKTOBERFEST
The St. Peter Ambassadors host the annual Oktoberfest during the last weekend in September at the festgrounds near Minnesota Avenue and Grace Street in downtown St. Peter. Do crisp fall evenings cause you to glance wistfully at the lederhosen hanging in your closet? Does the thought of polka music prompt involuntary toe-tapping? Do you compulsively blurt out “dankeschön” whenever a friend passes the sauerkraut? If any of the preceding inspired a sense of deja vu then you are in luck. Oktoberfest is coming to St. Peter on Friday and Saturday, September 27 and 28. The 2019 musical lineup includes Wendinger Band at 4 p.m. and the Blue Ringers at 8 p.m. on Friday. Then on Saturday, the Concord singers kick things off at 1 p.m., followed by the Bachfest BOYS at 3 p.m. and then IV Play at 8 p.m.
By Pat Garry, Contributing Writer