As I was growing up, both of my parents were in the Air Force and my elementary years were spent in Mons, Belgium where they were stationed. We traveled to Germany every summer to camp, but I will never forget the year that we went to Oktoberfest.
As a small child, it is one of the most thrilling experiences. There was so much to do – whether I wanted to go on rides, have my face decorated, or eat unheard of amounts of pretzels and German sausages. Most people would think that an event so famously known for beer is not for kids, but I can guarantee I was having just as much, if not more, fun than my parents! The experience of sitting at a community-style table surrounded by plates full of halves of roasted chicken and sausages with huge mugs of beer and people laughing was one of the best cultural experiences of my life.
Every year, Oktoberfest begins in the third week of September and runs through the first week in October. The event, which started in 1810, began as a celebration of Prince Ludwig, who would later be crowned King Ludwig I of Bavaria, and his marriage to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The Royals invited the public to celebrate their marriage in Munich, in a place now called Theresienwiese (Teresa Meadow), where Oktoberfest is still held today.
Over 200 years have passed since then and now this age-old tradition is being brought to Harrisonburg tomorrow, Saturday, September 22, by downtown restaurant Capital Ale House. Capital Ale House hosts two Oktoberfests every year at its Richmond and Fredericksburg, Virginia locations that attract upwards of 10,000 guests. Capital Ale House opened its location in downtown Harrisonburg on January 14, 2012 and now they are introducing this popular event to our community as well.
This event is sure to be enjoyable for the whole family. During the day, there will be a kids-only section with face painting, inflatable attractions, balloon artists, and entertainers. Kids also get in FREE!
Graham Street will be closed to traffic and the event will be held in the Capital Ale House parking lot, with gates opening at 11:30 am. The entry fee is $5, with three dollars of that amount going towards your own one-liter stein to take home, which has the Oktoberfest logo printed on it and is imported from Germany. The other two dollars goes towards the charity Second Home, which helps provide meals for children during the week whose families cannot afford it and sends backpacks of food home with them on weekends.
Once inside the event, there will be a token purchase station open all day and night. Each token costs $7, with beer and food available for one or two tokens.
At noon, Mayor Baugh will declare “Ozapt Ist!”, the traditional celebration of tapping the first keg. The event will take place rain or shine and will be full of food, beer, and happy faces. Four types of beer will be served on tap outside and over 25 German-style beers will be available on tap in the restaurant. (The restaurant will be open for its usual Saturday hours and will be separate from the main Oktoberfest event.) The featured beers outside will be a traditional Lager, a traditional German Oktoberfest (dark amber in color, with depths of flavor), a Pilsner (very light in color, with a crisp taste), and a German unfiltered wheat (with notes of banana and clove).
There will also be a variety of traditional food options outside that you won’t want to miss! Pull up to a farm-style table and choose from giant turkey legs, pretzels, mini pork shanks, German sausage platters, and, of course, the half roast chicken, alongside your choice of sauerkraut, German potato salad, or red cabbage.
As if beer and food wasn’t enough, there will also be traditional Oktoberfest entertainment with German bands, featuring The Continentals and The Happy Dutchman, and the German dancers SGTEV Hirschjager, with plenty of room to learn some of the German traditional steps and show off your dance moves. Some of the staff will even be dressed in the traditional uniforms of Dirndls and Lederhosen.
Kari Owens is the HDR Promotions Intern for Summer and Fall 2012. She is a senior Media Arts & Design major and Creative Writing minor at James Madison University.