Hanging near the beer
It doesn’t take long to find the center of attention during Oktoberfest in Vail.
Just look for the guy doing “the chicken dance,” Helmut Fricker, who’s creating more of a ruckus than anybody else – mainly because he’s got the help of The Rhinelanders, one of the world’s most renowned oompah bands in the world.
“It’s turned out wonderful. Everybody’s in a good mood,” Fricker said Saturday afternoon, beer in hand, the sun dancing behind intermittent dark clouds, temperatures barely in the 60s Fahrenheit, a cool, unusually cool September breeze blowing through Vail’s Lionshead Plaza.
That’s harvest weather, no?, much more so than what occured during Oktoberfest at Beaver Creek, on the last weekend of August. Some people in Vail Saturday, beer in hand, referred to that event as “Aug-toberfest.”
“They ask me: ‘Helmut, have you lived in Vail all your life?’ I tell tell them, ‘not yet!”
‘The beer doesn’t help’
Robin Braun, who lives in Denver and has been playing trumpet with Fricker and The Rhinelanders for two years, told me, beer in hand, oompah music is both demanding and, well, not that demanding.
“The hardest thing about playing oompah music here in Vail is the altitude,” said Braun, whose trumpet-playing background is in jazz and Mariachi. “And the beer doesn’t help.”
Meanwhile, which do you prefer, I asked Fricker, the lager or the special Oktoberfest brew, supplied amply by Paulaner, that fine German brewery?
“The beer’s fantastic,” he told me before turning heels and heading back to the stage, neatly tucked under a big white tent, in case it rained. “I prefer the Oktoberfest. I drink it all year ’round.”
Nobody within earshot, beer in hand, seemed to disagree. And so it went Saturday, beer in hand, during Oktoberfest Vail 2003.
Indeed, Oktoberfest in Vail is on. Beer, bratwursts and big-time fun await anybody willing – or not – to pony up dough for a nice beer stein to prove they’ve survived yet another Oktoberfest, as well as another year in the Vail Valley. The whole thing moves to Vail Village next weekend. I recommend buying a stein, filling it up, then repeatedly rendering it empty.
Birgit Mueller, a native of Munich who lives in Boulder and works as a physical therapist there, proudly wore her best Leiderhosen, those dang, stiff-looking, leather, bibbed shorts with lots of pockets, beer in hand.
“I love them,” she said. “But I would only buy them in Munich; I would never buy them here.”
No doubt. A good Leiderhosen costs about $100 in Munich, she said, but more than $300 in Vail.
“They are very comfortable,” she said. “I don’t wash them; I spray them. And I would never take them to a dry cleaner here … only in Munich.
So how does Vail’s Oktoberfest compare to Munich’s, I asked Mueller, beer in hand.
“It’s nothing like Munich,” said she, holding a huge stein containing at least a liter of Paulaner lager. “There, there’s 6 million people for two weeks; they sell 6 million liters of beer.”
So that’s only a liter per person? I responded.
“Yeah, but there’s a lot of kids there, too,” she said.
Dark vs. light
At 2 p.m. Saturday, Colin Gleason, who co-owns the concessions at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheatre and had people manning three tents pouring beer for Oktoberfest, told me, beer in hand, it was a 50-50 duel between Paulaner’s Oktoberfest brew and the lager.
“I think, by the end of the day, it’s going to be the lager,” he said, winking.
Sure enough, he told me later, beer in hand as The Rhinelanders took a break, the lager was pulling ahead.
Kyle Mays, an external home loans consultant with Countrywide Home Loans, “the largest independent mortgage company in the nation,” and “the official mortgage lender of the Oktoberfest Vail 2003,” said the music – and the beer – was exceptional.
“It’s fun to come out, eat bratwurst, pass out water bottles with our name on it … and drink beer,” he said, beer in hand.
The swilling continues
Oktoberfest in Lionshead continues today, with festivities beginning at noon. Fricker and The Rhinelanders play from until 3 p.m., with Kids’ Zone activities continuing until 5 p.m. Last call for alcohol is at 6 p.m. Beer in hand, Oktoberfest continues in Vail Village next weekend, Sept. 20 and 21.
Fricker and The Rhinelanders, meanwhile, apparently are on tour these days, having completed another CD, “Second Time Around,” of which they’ve sold at least 120. Jerry Perchacz, keyboardist and co-leader for the oompah band, said the group just played Las Vegas’ Plaza Hotel, and they’re on their way to Rio Rancho, N.M., Dodge City, Kansas, and New Orleans.
“We meet a lot of people,” he said. “It turns into a mini-vacation – and we get paid for it.”
From a wedding to the largest public festival in the world
Oktoberfest all began with the wedding of the Bavarian crown prince Ludwig, later known as King Ludwig I, to princess Therese from Saxony-Hildburghausen. Hence the name of the Theresienwiese, or Therese’s green, on Oct. 12, 1810. Five days later, the German National Guard organized a large public horse race to ensure Bavarians could also partake in the wedding celebration.
It was decided the festival, known as “The Wiesn,” should be repeated at the same time the following year marking the birth of the “October Festivals.”
In contrast to the horse race, the festival has held to this day. Every three years this “central agricultural festival” takes place on the southern part of the Theresienwiese.
The enormous entertainment spectrum today didn’t exist in the past. A couple of carousels and several beer stands were all at that time; the first beer tents started in 1896.
As Munich was considerably smaller in those days, the proprietors and event organizers went out to the Wiesn for the starting ceremonies. This tradition is still reflected today with the entry of the tent proprietors on Saturday morning in the parade. The mayor, Thomas Wimmer, first started the well-known tradition of tapping the beer keg in the 1950s. The mayor taps the first keg on the first Wiesn-Saturday at exactly 12 p.m. and calls out “O’zapft is,” which means the keg has been tapped. Since then, the mayor has always tapped the first keg.
The Wiesn, meanwhile, also has its dark side: 13 visitors were killed in a bomb attack at the main entrance in 1980 and more than 200 people were seriously injured. The Wiesn has been cancelled a total of 24 times in its history. The reasons?: war, cholera and inflation.
– Source: http://www.okoberfest.de
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