In my previous posts I have written about Leavenworth, a Bavarian village in the heart of the state of Washington. I have marveled at the quaintness of this town and have been mesmerized by all the twinkling lights at night that adorn the buildings in the downtown area. The architectural style of the shops and restaurants along with the colorful murals painted on the walls makes you forget that you are in the USA.
Friday night was the official opening of Oktoberfest. This celebration will continue for another two weekends. Tourists flock here from the USA and Canada for this popular event. Tents have been erected and there are four main venues, each providing entertainment, food and drinks. There are beer tents as well. Men and women in traditional dress are a common sight. And of course traffic is a nightmare as the streets are narrow and parking spaces are limited.
One of the infamous competitions is Masskrugenstemmen, more commonly known as “Beer Stein Holding.” This is a traditional Bavarian endurance contest where contestants hold a one-liter stein of beer with their arm straight out at shoulder height, for as long as possible. There are separate competitions for men and women. There is a fee of $20 to enter this competition and there is a limit of 20 participants. There are strict rules and contestants are closely watched for infractions.
Entertainment this year includes seventeen bands from Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and as far away as Germany. Music is always a highlight of this event and the tents are crowded with people. During the day children are allowed if accompanied by an adult, but at 9 pm it becomes adults only.
A variety of food ranging from bratwurst to pulled pork is available. Desserts offered include a German style cake with whipped cream and a mug of root beer float. Of course all the restaurants in the downtown area are open featuring typical German food as well as everything from Mongolian barbecue to Italian fare.
There are two locations to purchase Official Leavenworth Oktoberfest Souvenirs. Steins, coffee cups, pins and t-shirts are just a few of the many items available. All the shops in the downtown area are open where an assortment of other merchandise can be found.
And now a word about beer. There is an amazing variety of beer to enjoy, much of it made locally by Icicle Brewing Company. Alcohol content, color and taste vary. Personally I prefer the darker beer as I find it stronger and more flavorful. One of my favorites actually has a chocolate kick to it.
While beer is vital to any Oktoberfest celebration, I am impressed with the way drinking and driving is addressed here. Free shuttle buses are provided from hotels as far away as Wenatchee and along the main streets in Leavenworth. The printed Oktoberfest program has a page dedicated to tips on sensible drinking. And of course law enforcement are out on the streets in full force.
Thirty years after Leavenworth adopted the Bavarian theme, Projekt Bayern was created in June of 1996. The goal was to revitalize a waning interest and to carry out projects to make Leavenworth more authentically Bavarian in nature. There are two major events organized and supported by Projekt Bayern include Oktoberfest and Christkindlmarkt, as well as several other organizations and projects, in addition to the awarding the Annual Spirit of Bavaria awards.
Oktoberfest, aka The Munich Beer Festival, is the largest popular festival in the world and attracts millions of visitors from all over the world each year. Leavenworth, a town of only 2000 people, does an incredible job of staging this celebration. Munich………watch out!