Oktoberfest events can start as early as August and are often considered perfect foundations for adult parties dedicated to beer and other food traditions originating in Germany. However, when you get down to the original definition of Oktoberfest as they apply to American culture, they celebrate the fruits of that year’s harvest season and are family-friendly to the core.
Oktoberfest in Germany began in 1810 as a sprawling, five-day wedding reception in honor of groom Crown Prince Ludwig, staged for hundreds of the Bavarian royal family’s closet friends. Festivities included horse racing and entertainment along with an endless flow of food and beer. While it evolved into one of Munich’s great tourist attractions, it is perfectly timed for German-American families throughout the United States to roll out the proverbial barrels and celebrate the joys of the fall season. Furthermore, as roughly 20 percent of Americans claim German ancestry, and many of them look to connect to their roots in a festive way each year, cities and towns of every description throughout the United States stage events that show how traditions brought to the “New World” have become regionalized in different ways and accessible to people of all backgrounds.
Although towns and cities in Wisconsin, Illinois (famously the site of the Oktoberfest parade scenes in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), Indiana and Ohio are synonymous for Oktoberfest festivities given the deep roots and agricultural traditions set down by German immigrants over the country’s history, there’s always a fresh crop of interesting ways to celebrate peak fall season in a few less obvious places and settings.
Foodies can follow in Ferris Bueller’s footsteps and head down to Dusek’s Board & Beer, Oct. 6, the historic Thalia Hall in Chicago’s Pilsen opens a neighborhood free-to-enter “Blocktoberfest,” which features a variety of different craft beers for purchase (for the parents, of course) curated by Dusek’s, along with German-inspired delicacies from executive chef Michael Galen. The restaurant’s adjoining equestrian-themed cocktail bar, Tack Room, will transform into a fun kids zone filled with kid-friendly activities such as face painting, coloring and a gourd ring toss.
New Orleans Oktoberfest takes place Oct. 4–5, 11–12 and 18–19 at the Deutsches Haus Center, across the road from Bayou St. John at City Park. The annual celebration brings Bavarian festivities to the Bayou for three weekends, through the lens of the city’s famed joie de vivre with German culture, cuisine and family fun. Fest-goers can expect a host of authentic German foods, live music, dances and children’s activities including arts and crafts, games and performance.
Oaktoberfest, the annual upstate New York festival at the Oak Mountain Ski Area, is an authentic nod to the famous Munich Oktoberfest. This year, it happens Oct. 6, with live music, craft vendors, a delicious German buffet, a bouncy house, magic show, disc golf and mountain biking.
Every Thursday through Sunday in October, guests can enjoy the Annual Pumpkin and Chili Party at Schnepf Farms, a fourth-generation German family farm in the neighboring town of Queen Creek, Arizona. The family-friendly festival includes many attractions such as hayrides, a petting zoo, two corn mazes (one smaller four-acre and one 10-acre, celebrity-themed maze), pig races, live music, a BMX show, vintage amusement park rides and more. Visitors can enjoy endless chili and corn bread, as well as treats from the Farm Bakery, and pick the perfect pumpkin for carving from the farm’s pumpkin patch.
The Original Farmer’s Market serves up its annual Fall Festival the weekend of Oct. 12–13, with German and international flair and Hollywood style. One of the market’s oldest annual traditions encompasses live music, a petting zoo, arts and crafts, a pie-eating contest, seasonal foods and excellent weather the whole family can enjoy as it has for decades.
On Oct. 5–6 and 12–13, the 14th Annual Suncadia Resort Harvest Festival at the base of the Cascade Mountains celebrates the vibrant colors and the crisp 50–60-degree temps synonymous with the Pacific North West. Kids’ activities include a hay maze and hay pyramid, Pumpkin Patch, farmers and arts-and-crafts market, petting zoo, pony rides, pumpkin archery, wagon rides, food trucks and face painting.
Outside our nation’s capital, the historic hamlet offers several Halloween-inspired spins on the festival. On Oct. 25–26, Colonial Williamsburg guests are not only treated to the area’s preservation of early American living and lush fall foliage, but Halloween chills on Duke of Gloucester Street with evening programs, ghost tours, spooky carriage rides, museum talks and special events. Once the kids are tucked into bed, the kids-at-heart can partake in GhostoberFest, at the Cannon Tap Room at Brass Cannon Brewery, which takes place during the entire month of October. The Halloween-themed weekends feature small, spooky batch beer releases, additional music nights and discounts for folks who show up in costume.
There’s not much spookier than getting lost in a maze cut through tall stalks of corn — especially in the dark. The first corn maze is attributed to a farm in Annville, Pennsylvania. Since then, mazes have become huge autumn attractions. Many of today’s larger mazes are cut with the help of Global Positioning Satellite technology, allowing maze makers to create intricate shapes that add to navigational challenges.
By Hainan Airlines
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