Published in PORTLAND FAMILY
Mt. Angel’s Oktoberfest — the largest folk festival in the Northwest — works pretty hard to make sure that everyone has a good time. Year after year, Mt. Angel’s battalion of local volunteers fine tune the festival to make it more fun, memorable and safe than the last.
Part of the planning goes into ensuring that the Oktoberfest is a great time for families. Sure, there are venues where adults are doing arm curls with pilsners, but there is also outstanding entertainment for people of all ages.
“It’s an outstanding place for young people,” said Gary Grassman of the festival’s kindergarten area. “There’s a petting zoo with a donkey, pigs, yearlings, rabbits, chicken, goats and geese. We have a hay maze where the kids can run, and then there’s our famous Wiener Dog Races. It’s hilarious to watch the dogs run, get turned around and go the other way.”
Heck, that sounds like more fun than the festival’s deep-fried Twinkie stand.
Grassman, who works as a machinist at Zephyr Engineering until Oktoberfest season comes about, has the responsibility for the kindergarten area, sporting events and the Cruz-n Car Show.
Top on Grassman’s list, other than keeping events fun, is to keep it cheap. “Not only is it free to get in to the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest, everything in our kindergarten area is free unless you want to buy a t-shirt,” he said. “I have two kids, and these days it can cost a fortune to take your family anywhere, so I try to do my best to keep this as free as possible.”
Located at St. Mary’s Schoolyard, a shaded area located just a block from the main drinking festivities, the kindergarten area is for kids of preschool to middle school age.
If the petting zoo isn’t enough, there will be balloon artists, face painters, two large pony rings and inflatable bouncing toys for younger and older kids. There also will be a big slide, a balloon tube and two rock-climbing walls. The climbing walls were a huge draw at last year’s Oktoberfest.
Plus, Grossman has scheduled performances by a magician and a comedy juggler who does things such as stand on machetes barefoot while juggling bowling pins (remind your kids not to try this at home).
The kindergarten area runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 14 and 15.
The kindergarten isn’t the only area great for family fun. At noon each day during the festival you’ll want to get to the bandstand to see the Mt. Angel schoolchildren perform their colorful Webertanz (May pole dance) and other Alpine folk dances. Music is an integral part of the merriment. There are 30 different music groups performing on four stages, with street dancing on Friday and Saturday night.
Another attraction is the Cruz-n Car Show, which features 40 to 100 cars a day on Saturday and Sunday. Awards are given for the best tricked-out cars, from the 1900s to present. There’s also a special category for military vehicles. After awards are presented on Saturday, the “Winners Circle” cars are displayed on Sunday.
For more active folks, there are golf, track and volleyball tournaments. There also are fun runs: a 10-kilometer fun run and 5-kilometer run/walk. The events start on Saturday at 9 a.m. at Humpert Park.
Then there’s the food. Gary Grossman said that people could bring a sack lunch to Oktoberfest and not spend a dime. “But any time you spend money at the festival, nonprofits are making money,” he said. There are up to 50 food booths at the festival, operated by nonprofit, local organizations representing civic, school, veteran, fraternal and service causes.
“Some may think we all get paid to put on the festival, but it’s mostly an all-volunteer effort.” Grossman said.
German pioneers founded Mt. Angel in 1867, and its agricultural countryside bears a striking resemblance to rural Bavaria. In 1966, the town’s first Oktoberfest was held and it has since been an iconic part of the community.
Mt. Angel Oktoberfest 2013 will run September 12-15. For more information, visit http://www.oktoberfest.org/