Oktoberfest kicks off its 53rd year
Festival organizers want to encourage visitors to not only enjoy themselves at this year's Mount Angel Oktoberfest, but to also realize that by doing so they're helping support nonprofits.
The 53rd Mount Angel Oktoberfest, which runs Thursday through Sunday, is themed: "Giving Back Never Tasted So Good."
"Every time you purchase something at Oktoberfest, you're donating to a good cause," explained Monica Bochsler, Oktoberfest board member and public relations chairwoman.
That's because the 50 food booths are fundraisers for local churches, service organizations and school clubs. Patrons can buy one of Oma's Alpine apples from St. Paul Parochial School, Reuben sandwiches from Knights of Columbus and German chocolate cake from the Butte Creek Parents Club. The nonprofits only pay a small commission that covers utility costs, according to Oktoberfest President Chris Bischoff.
Other vendors lining the streets of downtown Mount Angel include artisans and crafters, whose booth rental fees also, indirectly, go back to the community. After paying off costs, Oktoberfest donates money back to various charities in the area. Since 1966, Oktoberfest has donated $3 million. Last year, the amount donated was $103,000.
"Our best year ever was $132,000, and we hope to match that this year," Bochsler said.
People can also give back by volunteering; Bischoff estimates there are about 7,500 people who volunteer for Oktoberfest, whether it's a parishioner volunteering in the St. Mary's Parish booth or a Kennedy High School student helping with the street cleanup.
"The easiest way someone can get involved is to help with your school or church booth," he suggested.
Or you can give back by simply attending the four-day festival and patronizing the food booths and entertainment venues. This year, a new venue will be opening: The Hopfengarten, translated the hop garden, will be a venue without a cover charge, with volunteer accordionists providing entertainment and drinks available for purchase.
"We let people come in and sit down to have beer or wine with their lunch or dinner," Bischoff said.
The Hopfengarten is basically a duplicate of the Prostgarten, located behind the Saalfeld House on the corner of Garfield and College streets.
"The Prostgarten started in 2011 and it became popular so quickly," Bischoff said. "We can't put any more people in there so it's time to do it again."
The Hopfengarten, which will be roughly twice the size of the Prostgarten, will be located on the corner of Church and Garfield streets, across the street from City Hall.
Oktoberfest is full of free entertainment, not just in the Hopfengarten and Prostgarten, but also with free concerts at St. Mary's Catholic Church, lively music and dancing at the downtown bandstand and in the form of kids games, weiner dog races and a car show at the Kindergarten (located at St. Mary's Public School Friday through Sunday). But patrons can pay an additional wristband fee to get into the Biergarten, Weingarten and Alpinegarten to hear a variety of bands that have traveled far and wide to entertain Mount Angel's thousands of visitors.
New this year on the entertainment schedule is Mollie B and the Squeezebox Band, which will perform at 3:45 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in the Alpinegarten. Mollie B, who hails from Ohio, was recently inducted into the International Polka Association Hall of Fame.
Other entertainers include the Chardon Polka Band, which was new to Oktoberfest last year, and, celebrating 28 years performing at Oktoberfest, Germany's Die Original Donaumusikanten, which arrived in Mount Angel early to perform at this past Saturday night's Oktoberfest Kickoff Party.
"Our entertainment is not just booking good background noise," Bischoff said, "It's engaging. If you don't have that entertainment then people will entertain themselves."
Paired with the entertainment at the 53rd Oktoberfest are 53 different beers — "a coincidence, but a pretty cool coincidence," Bischoff said about the number — along with wine, cider, Radlers and non-alcoholic beverages.
And guests can also take part in the Oktoberfest Olympics, which was new to the festival last year and will be held every day in the Biergarten. The Olympic games consist of a bratwurst-eating contest, in which participants will eat a brat and bun as fast as they can; hammerschlagen, a game in which participants use a large wedge-shaped hammer to hit different-sized nails; a keg roll, in which participants will roll and stack three empty beer kegs; stein hoisting, which challenges participants to hold up a beer stein with an extended arm for as long as they can; and finally, a yodeling contest.
With 50 food vendors, 53 beers and more, many festival-goers might opt to work up an appetite by taking part in Race Northwest's 10K/5K and half marathon Saturday morning. Find out more at oktoberfestroadrace.com. For those a little slower going, the Volkswalk, a non-competitive road walking race, will be Sunday morning, taking walkers up to the hilltop that is the site of Mount Angel Abbey.
Those wishing to see the Abbey grounds and not walk can also take the free shuttle being offered this year. Pickup and dropoff is located at the corner of Sheridan and Church streets.
Guests to the city can see a new angle of Mount Angel this year: There will be short helicopter rides open to the public for a fee from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily that take off by the Biergarten. Bischoff said this is a feature of Oktoberfest in the 1990s that is being revived.
While dozens of nonprofits benefit from Oktoberfest, so does the city.
"This is like a 13th month of the year for local businesses," Bischoff said. "For the most part, it's a good economic boost for them. … And we have a really good relationship with the city. We bring a really good crowd good entertainers and a lot of volunteers."
For a schedule of this year's festival, see Page A13 of the print edition, or find out more at http:///www.Oktoberfest.org.