September 30th to October 1st was the kick-off weekend for Leavenworth’s annual Oktoberfest celebration, and thus the beginning of three weekends full of music, food, beer and fun! I arrived at noon just before the parade began on Front Street (Leavenworth’s main street), and witnessed men and women in full Bavarian-style attire dancing their way alongside a horse-drawn cart carrying the keg that was going to be tapped at the Keg Tapping Ceremony. Hundreds of people gathered in a long line that stretched the length of the street and clapped to the oohmpa-pa beat that seemed to be coming from every direction. People were ready to party!
After the Keg Tapping Ceremony in the FestHalle (which will take place every Saturday during Oktoberfest at 1 p.m.), it was proclaimed “Let the music play, and the beer flow!” and the crowds dispersed. Many made their way to food booths, beer gardens (which featured a wide selection of mainly all German beer, with one exception belonging to local brewer Alpine Brewing), and each of the four large venues that housed rows of community-style tables and also provided a dance floor and stage for the bands and dance groups. I ventured over to one of the large tent venues and heard one of the festival’s most popular bands, S-Bahn, who played their own polka-style versions of some popular current songs. Many bands from all over the U.S., Canada, and Germany provide the entertainment and set the mood for a good time. I also learned that at every venue, nearly every band plays the “chicken dance,” which was without question the most popular song of the weekend! At the suggestion of a friend, one of the groups not to miss was Muchner Kindl, a bavarian-style dance group direct from Munich. These girls will be performing several times throughout Oktoberfest, and were very fun to watch–especially when they start to yodel.
One of the great things about Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest is that it is very family friendly. There was the Kinderplatz play area for kids, complete with climbing wall and bouncy toys, right in the heart of town. Children are also welcome to see and hear the entertainment inside all four main venues until 9 p.m. for the duration of Oktoberfest. There were also many street vendors selling souvenirs and beer steins, as well as pretzels and bratwurst. Half the fun was just smelling all the food and admiring who wore their lederhosen or dirndls the best.
By the end of the afternoon, the streets were packed with people and so were all the venues. One Oktoberfest employee I spoke with said attendance was expected to top the 30,000 or so participants that enjoyed the 2010 Oktoberfest. I can certainly understand why: Leavenworth knows how to do Oktoberfest in true Bavarian style and is an event not to miss!