"It takes beer to make thirst worthwhile." ~German Proverb
From late September to the first weekend in October, thirst is a worldwide phenomenon (or at least in Munich). Every year, some six million people attend Oktoberfest. Visitors from around the world pack their bags and come to Munich for the festival. However, many American communities, like ones in Ontario, Michigan, and Ohio, have started quenching their own thirst. But do their celebrations stand up to the original?
The nine-day festival in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, is North America's largest Oktoberfest, attracting 750,000-1,000,000 visitors. The founding fathers thought it was the perfect way to honor the local German-Canadian heritage. The fashion show, treasure hunt, and live music make it an experience that everyone can enjoy. The festival coincides with Canadian Thanksgiving. A crowd-pleaser is the Thanksgiving Day Parade, which includes floats, clowns, and marching bands.
For more Oktoberfests, travel south to the United States. Nestled in Michigan is a small city with a large German population. Frankenmuth, known as 'Little Bavaria', celebrated its first Oktoberfest in 1990. Although the city and its annual celebration are not well known to outsiders, Frankenmuth's Oktoberfest is the first (besides Munich) to be endorsed by Mayor Christian Ude. Over four days in September, the Bavarian-rooted city transforms into a festival with German bands, food, and beer. There is also an event for one's furry four-legged friends - the Wiener Dog Race. Fifty to a hundred dachshunds line up on one side of the pavilion floor and run to the other side. The top winners are awarded trophies.
Further south, the largest Oktoberfest in the USA is held in Cincinnati (Zinzinnati), Ohio. It began in 1976 as a party to attract visitors and to celebrate the city's German heritage. It is estimated that 80,500 bratwursts, 24,640 potato pancakes, 1,875 pounds of German potato salad, and 800 barrels of beer are consumed. In 1994, Oktoberfest "Zinzinnati" made it into the Guinness Book of Records after 48,000 people did the chicken dance. That is a lot of people flapping their wings and shaking their tails! One might wonder if the chicken dance record was set before or after the beer was consumed.
An American Oktoberfest is a great option for those who cannot make it to Munich but do not want to miss out on all the fun. However, it might not be the best option. Imagine a bottle of Samuel Adams Octoberfest beer or lederhosen from a $15 Halloween costume; they are just not as good as the original. The same can be said about Oktoberfest. A sense of pride permeates the air as lederhosen- and dirndl-clad locals come together to celebrate their history and heritage. Nothing beats the taste of authentic Bavarian food and beer. In addition, one has the opportunity to meet people from all corners of the world and go home with a camera full of memorable experiences. How thirsty are you to experience the original Oktoberfest?