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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Prost! Oktoberfest

The word Oktoberfest recalls images of Lederhosen, Dirndl Dresses, and full beer steins.  I must admit before doing my research, I probably could not tell you the official names of the embellished shorts with suspenders worn generally by men, or what the women’s dresses laced up the front were called. I, of course, did know what a beer stein was, although I am not sure, outside of an Oktoberfest-themed celebration, if I even know someone that regularly drinks from one. Modern-day celebrations have become more about what is inside the cup than the container itself for those that wish to imbibe. For others, Oktoberfest is more about dressing up in costume, enjoying the food, activities, dancing, and listening to the music.

It All Started With a Wedding

As we raise our glasses with a cheerful “Prost!” we honor a tradition that dates to October 12, 1810 in Munich, Germany.  It began as a celebration of the royal wedding between Crown Prince Ludwig (who later became King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Breaking away from uptight elite traditions, the bride and groom invited the citizens of Munich to attend the wedding celebration held in the fields in front of the city gates. The field was dubbed Theresienwiese, or Theresa’s fields, in honor of the Crown Princess. 

Horse races in the presence of the Royal Family marked the close of the five-day event that was celebrated as a festival for all of Bavaria. The decision to repeat the horse races the next year led to the beginning of the tradition of “the Oktoberfest”. In addition to the horse races the following year in 1811, the first Agricultural Show was held to promote Bavarian agriculture. 

Over the years small beer stands grew rapidly in number and were eventually replaced with beer tents and halls which turned into temporary structures with interior balconies and bandstands. Carousels and fun rides were added and grew year after year as well.  Because of the colder weather in Mid-October, the dates of the festival have shifted into September.

Courtesy oktoberfest.net

The horse races were the oldest, and at one time the most popular event of the festival however they are no longer held today. The Agricultural Show is still held every three years during the Oktoberfest on the southern part of the festival grounds. 

Festivals modeled after the Oktoberfest spread rapidly throughout the world. including the United States. as a way for immigrants to pay respect to the traditions of their native country. However, you do not have to be from there to enjoy a good celebration.

The modern-day festival in Munich remains the biggest and most famous beer festival in the world. The mayor of Munich traditionally taps the first keg to open the two-week festival which has grown to attract more than six million people, many of them tourists, every year.  Total beer consumption during Oktoberfest has grown to around 75,800 hectoliters which is the equivalent of about 2 million gallons.

Oktoberfest – Wikipedia

Unfortunately, the world’s largest celebration of Bavarian culture will not happen for the second year in a row due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Minister-President Dr. Markus Söder said at a press conference earlier this year that the unanimous decision was made to recommend that the major folk festivals in Bavaria not take place – including the Oktoberfest.  

Söder shared concerns that the situation was too uncertain, and a late cancellation would cause great economic loss. Other concerns included the risk of potential damage to the Oktoberfest brand along with the fact that requirements such as mandatory masks and maintaining social distances in the large tents would not be feasible and could lead to chaotic conditions.

Willkommen bei Enida    (Welcome to Enid!)

Fortunately, you don’t have to go to Germany for an authentic Bavarian experience.  Local event organizers in Enid have the good fortune to have enough space to spread out and proceed with festivities while taking precautionary measures. 

Main Street Enid’s Oktoberfest is the largest local celebration and is listed as one of the top five Oktoberfest celebrations in the state of Oklahoma according to the national Only in Your State Website.

This will be the 22nd year for the annual Main Street Enid event. The annual celebration was established in 1999 to attract people to downtown Enid and to celebrate German, Austrian and Czech heritage.  The event quickly grew into one of the organization’s core annual events.

In the early years, the event was generally held indoors with a small admission fee.  Features included Grammy Award-winning polka bands, accordion players, children’s activities, dancing, contests, a variety of vendors, and an authentic German Biergarten.  Due to the event being held on a Saturday, organizers made sure big-screen TVs were on hand so football fans could keep up with their favorite Oklahoma college teams when the event coincided with game time. 

Community member Torrie Vann calls the event “my favorite downtown event every year!” and says she “loves seeing the community out & supporting our small businesses.”

Main Street Enid Oktoberfest has evolved into an outdoor event that is the culmination of the First Friday season.  Oktoberfest 2021 will take place October 1st downtown Enid with double the space as previous years to allow for social distancing. A consumption area surrounding the 200 block of W. Randolph and 100 block on N. Independence will be sectioned off for the event which will run from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm featuring food trucks, giant games, a costume contest, and a live DJ.

Several businesses will be set up vendor booths to add to the festivities. In addition, many downtown shops and boutiques will remain open to welcome visitors with special sales, live music, and Oktoberfest themes.

Biergartens will be set up featuring craft beers by local breweries including Enid Brewing Company which will be located at the far end of Independence and Settler’s Brewing Company which will be located at the far end of Randolph. A liquor bar hosted by Stride Bank Center will be located at the intersection of Randolph and Independence. Alcoholic drinks will be allowed to be carried around within the parameters of the consumption area only.

Callahan’s Pub and Grille has been treating Enid to a genuine European pub atmosphere since they opened in 2003. However, when you step into Callahan’s every year for First Friday in October, you are instantly immersed in the atmosphere of all things Oktoberfest. From the waitresses who are on point in the fanciest of costumes to the festive decorations that adorn and transform the entire place. This year will be no exception, authentic German food will be on the menu with specials all week long and cold special order German beers will be available including several on tap. Of course, the atmosphere would not be complete without their legendary Oktoberfest-themed music in the background. If memory serves her correctly, this will be Jorden Martin’s twelfth year for Oktoberfest at Callahan’s. She highly recommends the Brat Burger. It is an “absolute favorite”. The food and drinks are always amazing, but it is definitely the staff that makes it fun.  The friendly staff at Callahan’s look forward to seeing new faces from the community and enjoy the change of pace and excitement of Oktoberfest that sets it apart from the average Friday night.

Settler’s Brewing Company owners and staff are appreciative of their partnership with Main Street Enid and the fact they continue to support our community by sponsoring great events like Oktoberfest. Tonya Rowe said, “It was a phenomenal success last year (2020) and we look forward to everyone coming out.” Settler’s released their Main Street Marzen on September 15th in honor of the festivities and will have it on hand for attendees of this year’s event.  Rowe said that they “are grateful for the support our hometown has provided and allowing Settlers to bring family, friends, and beer together.” Settlers will feature live music onstage and additional fun throughout the evening at the brewery.

This will be the third year for Enid Brewing Company to be involved in the popular Enid event.  They sold merchandise the first year to promote the brewery before it was officially open. For the last two years, their Oktoberfest style Marzen has been wildly popular creating “big lines” of people. In anticipation of another great crowd at this year’s event, co-owner Justin Blasier said they “have made double the amount this year and will have half of it in cans and half of it in kegs and will probably have two taps of it on the jockey box to serve it faster as it is one of the most popular beers since it is named after the event itself.” He added, “It is always a super fun time. Oktoberfest is kind of a beer-drinking holiday as it is and so we really promote the local craft of it as well as the German roots of the beer itself.”

They will have live music at the brewery with several of the staff dressing up in Lederhosen, Dirndls, and other German-themed clothing. The excitement Justin shows when talking about Oktoberfest makes it apparent that it is his favorite time of year and he says it is his favorite First Friday event. Justin’s wife Taylor agrees. She says her favorite part is “seeing everybody dressed up.” She enjoys the costume contest and shared a story about a couple that was new to Enid and a little timid about dressing up. Once they learned of the contest, they went to their car to retrieve their costumes and ultimately were the winners of the contest and won gift cards courtesy of the brewery. Taylor shared that Oktoberfest was the first of many trips the couple would make to the brewery becoming regular customers.

Taylor is excited about this year’s event and is looking forward to another year of among other things, “the build your own pretzel necklace” activity at the brewery.  Her advice, “simple is best, just have fun and enjoy the experience” while Justin adds “It’s a beer-drinking holiday so enjoy the beer”. Spoken like a true beer craftsman.

Soundtrack Of A Celebration

I would be remiss if I did not use this opportunity to pay tribute to the Polka music roots of our area and the beloved members of the No. One Oklahoma Polka Club. While the club is no longer in existence, it is a part of the rich history of Polka music in Enid and the surrounding area. Last names of just a few of the families with Polka in their veins come to mind, like Patocka, Fuksa, Kudlac, Pospisil, and Gabriel. Gabriel is perhaps the most familiar of them all to me as I had the pleasure of working with Albert Gabriel and his wife Irene when they hosted the last of the local radio shows dedicated to Polka music here in Enid.

Gabriel began his career with his first band, the Gold Crown Melodiers. The band played live polka music on Enid’s KCRC radio station in the 1930’s. His second band, the Oklahoma Polka Chex played together from 1977 to 1990. Gabriel continued his involvement with KCRC throughout the years. He started hosting an hour-long polka and waltz program in 1977, playing requests taken by none other than his wife Irene who manned the telephone lines. The pair were a staple on the AM station and the program continued despite several format changes with the help of the sponsorship of none other than the No. One Polka Club of Oklahoma. Gabriel hosted the show until the year of his death in 2003.

Throughout the years, Gabriel and his fellow club members lent support to the Main Street event as well as all things polka in the area often using connections to recruit popular polka bands to travel to Enid to perform.

In recent years the soundtrack to the Main Street Oktoberfest event has been a hit and has included a mixture of music including traditional Polka provided by live DJ Randy Johnson. 

As a special addition this year, an afterparty has been added to the Main Street Oktoberfest schedule. The afterparty will close out the celebration from 9:00 pm to 12:00 am featuring music by DJ’s Twiinception – two brothers trying to spread positivity through music.

Wear a mask, or don’t, but do be respectful of other’s personal space (even a little more than you normally would be) and join in the fun for the annual Oktoberfest celebration on October 1st.  A few phrases to learn for a more authentic experience: 1.)  Ist dieser Tisch frei? – Is this seat taken?  2.) Mehr Bier, Bitte! – More beer, please!  3.) Reichst du mir bitte die Brezeln? – Can you pass the pretzels?  and 4.) Lass uns das nächstes Jahr wiederholen. – Let’s do this again next year.

If you happen to miss out on this year’s celebration, make plans to attend next year. Stay safe, be well and remember everyone is German during Oktoberfest. Prost!

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