Autumn has long been my favorite season of the year. Trees and bushes show their glorious fall foliage. Once they fall to the ground they make a crunching sound under my feet as I walk along the street.
When my son was a toddler, we would head for Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg where we would collect leaves. He would squeal gleefully as he darted about looking for different colors and shapes. We would take our treasures home, wrap them in saran, and place them carefully in one of my heaviest cookbooks to preserve them. I actually saved that one cookbook with the last leaves we collected and it’s hidden beneath some photo albums in a bin stored at my son’s house. A beautiful memory.
Two years ago I spent a couple of days in Toronto. My friend Deborah lived by the lake and I recall our wonderful walk among the colorful trees in the neighborhood. I hadn’t experienced fall in a while as Mexico has a totally different climate and vegetation.
Last summer I discovered Washington state and I returned again this year to enjoy the summer and fall. Busloads of tourists come to Leavenworth to admire the amazing display of color at this time of year. The Autumn Leaf Festival held two weekends ago attracted hundreds of tourists. The Salmon Festival also happened recently. But we are now in the midst of three weekends of Oktoberfest, which means thousands of people flocking to Leavenworth.
Oktoberfest! This quaint Bavarian village is synonymous with the Oktoberfest celebration. Lederhosen and dirndls are worn by many. Entertainment abounds at three different venues. Bratwurst on a bun is just one of the many items on the menu. And of course there are numerous types of beer to choose from. Hotels and campgrounds are booked solid. Driving through town is more like a congested parking lot.
This weekend Apple Days was held at the Pioneer Museum in Cashmere. Yours truly got caught up in the spirit and volunteered in the vintage railroad ticket station. Entertainment varied from gymnasts to mariachi and more. Shoot outs were held on the hour. And of course an apple pie baking contest was featured. This gentleman was serving up sarsaparilla in the bar.
A wind blew in yesterday and a shower of pine needles has covered the ground. The aroma is heavenly. And my favorite tree in Cashmere has begun to change color.
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!