As Mount Angel Oktoberfest organizers were ceremoniously rolling out the welcome mat around midday Thursday, Sept. 12, the city's guests were already making themselves at home.
Visitors poured into town early, and per usual would do so throughout as the 54th annual event as it ran through the weekend.
Throngs of early goers kicked out into the streets, some garbed in fest-appropriate attire, sampling the bratwurst, kraut, fried fixings, ice cream and field-fresh, hot-buttered corn on the cob. Scores of them settled into the bleachers surrounding the mid-town gazebo (shaded spots were premium) as the town officially blessed, extolled and ushered in this year's event, which donned the theme "The Joy of Being Together."
A live ensemble in the gazebo played national anthems of Germany and the US as area veterans raised flags of both countries, before organizers issued the event's befitting welcome.
"We want families to come in here to Mount Angel and enjoy this festival," Oktoberfest President Bill Bischoff hailed as many were doing just that in the immediate blocks beyond.
"We are here; we are ready to go," said Mount Angel Mayor Kelly Grassman, who undertook her mayoral role just nine days prior to the festival's opening day.
"You could say I've been busy," a dirndl-clad Grassman jested as she prepared to set out into the event's mix.
Grassman orchestrated a troop of some 250 young dancers – an 8-week process that includes rehearsals and costuming -- who performed twice daily each day of the event. She also serves on the fest's steering committee and served as the council's president prior to being appointed mayor after former mayor Andrew Otte's recent resignation.
Despite the workload, the new mayor would not be denied her annual dose of Oktoberfest enjoyment.
"As far as the festival, I think it's wonderful," she said, estimating that it is about her 20th. "For me, I just love the food, getting dressed up, the energy and getting out and meeting new people."
One of those was a fellow civic official from down under: Cr Angela Long of Red Gum Ward, Greater Dandenong City, Victoria, Australia. Ward penciled Oktoberfest into her US visit's itinerary, and greeted Grassman as she concluded the initial ceremony.
"I just think that is so cool – it's awesome," Grassman enthused of the hamlet's visitor from the southern hemisphere.
Beyond the event's theme and renowned festivity, it touches lives; Bischoff underscored the $3.4 million in proceeds that have benefited area nonprofits over the years. That number is proceed-specific and does not count the monies netted individually by the 53 nonprofits set up with booths.
Among those is the Benedictine Sisters of Mount Angel.
A half dozen dirndl-clad teenage girls with floral crowns flocked to the Benedictine booth briefly to admire adornments made at the local monastery, just about the time Sister Rebecca was touching up the display.
Great Harvest Bakery contributed assorted breads to the booth, while some favorite items, Sister Immaculata's coffee cake and Briggitine monks fudge by the piece, are made locally.
The sisters also hand-made an array of crafts that included rosaries, bracelets, necklases, scrunchies and kitchen scrubbies.
"This is not a major fundraiser, but the festival is a great way for the sisters to remain involved in the community," said Michael Trevino, Benedictine Sisters director of mission advancement.
The sisters can be counted among the 7,500 volunteers who collectively make the event work year in and year out. A tall order consider the volunteer number is more than double the town's population.
One Benedictine-booth volunteer and out-of-town visitor revealed a glimpse into how that volunteer tally is met.
"We come to this festival every year and, are here every day," said Deacon Dennis Kutach of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Yoakum, Texas.
Kutach and his wife, Georgia, were helping Trevino and Sister Rebecca at the Benedictine booth. He said they have visited Oktoberfest consistently for about 10 years, following the lead of their friends, Nelson and Patti Jeffer of Boerne, Texas, who have been visiting for about 16 years.
"Mount Angel is such a beautiful place," Kutach said. "It's a wonderful area to visit – especially when it's 99 degrees in Texas."
The 2020 Mount Angel Oktoberfest is scheduled for Sept. 17-20.It's theme will be "Eat, Drink, Polka!"
For information, visit www.oktoberfest.org.
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