Do you find yourself craving knockwurst, bratwurst, grilled
onions, sauerkraut, and spicy mustard? Have you smothered
the desire to shout out “eins, zwei, drei g’suffa”
or “prost” or “zicke-zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi”?
Have you felt the urge to wander down the budenstrasse or
do the chicken dance? Have you been shopping for lederhosen
or a very special dirndl?
Of course you have! It’s October and that means thousands
of Americans are heading up to the tourist communities in
their nearby mountains to enjoy the festivities. If you live
in Los Angeles, that means you’re going to the Big Bear
Lake 32nd Annual Oktoberfest.
So how did Oktoberfest start anyway? In 1810, the German
Prince Ludwig I held a reception party for his new wife, Princess
Therese Sachsen-Hildurghausen. The Bavarians, who were exhausted
by the harvest, gathered and celebrated the wedding and continued
drinking all day and night! Held in a meadow (or wiese) outside
of the gates of Munich, the party was so successful, the community
gathered every year after to celebrate the anniversary of
their prince’s wedding and the anniversary of the party
itself! The Bavarians even named the meadow Theresewiese in
honor of their prince’s new bride. And, of course, what’s
Oktoberfest without beer? Those in Munich take beer very seriously.
At this original festival, an old German law states that only
beers brewed in Munich can be served at the festivities.
And how did Oktoberfest get to the states? German immigrants,
of course! In Big Bear, two German immigrants, Hans and Erika
Bandows, moved from New York to California in 1969 with their
two children. They bought the Wawona Lodge, and after making
it through one of the fiercest winters in Big Bear history
they decided to celebrate and say thank you to their new clients
and friends. What better way than to hold the first Big Bear
Oktoberfest? (By the way, the Wawona Lodge is now the Bavarian
In the convention center in Big Bear this October, revelers
can dance to the sounds of the native German Appentaler Band
and then, later in the month, the American Express Band will
play old German favorites with rock and roll classics mixed
in. Of course, you can also see women compete to be the queen
of Oktoberfest by carrying the most steins over the finish
line. Or you can watch the log sawing contest. Or buy a one
dollar raffle ticket to win the Rotary Club’s commemorative
silver stein. Or, come on, you can even compete in the stein
holding contest. Hold a stein up at ninety degrees for two
minutes and there’s no need for an upper body workout
at the gym that week!
So if you’re tired of breathing smog or sitting in
traffic or standing in line at the post office, take a break,
drive into your local mountains, and say a toast for me. Before
you know it, you’ll be overwhelmed with a feeling of
gemutlichkeit. Mark my words.