Off the Hill with Tricia Swenson: Oktoberfest, Sonnenalp style
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In a community where we embrace a good party and the occasional costume, it’s no surprise that there are quite a few Oktoberfest celebrations held throughout the valley.
Every Labor Day weekend, a series of Bavarian-style events gets under way. First, Beaver Creek brings in the music and turns their ice rink into a beer garden with family fun for all. The following weekend, Lionshead hosts the jubilee with the Arrabelle as the backdrop, lending a Bavarian feel. Vail Village continues the revelry on Gore Creek Drive for a third weekend of fun. Finally, Gypsum gets into the spirit of raising a stein and singing an oompah song or two with a celebration at Lundgren Theater Park.
All venues do a wonderful job of hosting, but when Oktoberfest is held at the Sonnenalp, it seems like a perfect fit. Maybe it is the fact that this family-owned hotel is run by fourth-generation hoteliers from Germany. Johannes Faessler and his family have welcomed guests to Vail since 1979. Sonnenalp’s roots go back to Bavaria where their sister property was opened in 1919. It is still in operation today and run by Johannes Faessler’s brother and his family.
Many of the Sonnenalp’s staff wears the traditional attire, including lederhosen and dirndls as their uniforms. They also practice “gemutlichkeit,” which means the warmest of European hospitality.
You don’t need the authentic lineage to enjoy Oktoberfest. In fact, many people attend without even knowing how Oktoberfest began.
The history of Oktoberfest dates back to 1810, when the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese von Sachen-Hildburghausen was held in October. The celebration lasted several days. Each year it grew and eventually lasted a few weeks. Its start date was moved to the middle of September due to warmer weather. The last weekend of the event extends into the early part of October.
Sad to see the oompah bands, steins and lederhosen go? Not to worry, you won’t have to wait until next September to enjoy Oktoberfest. The Sonnenalp hosts Oktoberfest festivities as early as Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.