by Kirby LindsayOver the weekend of September 24 – 26, Phil Megenhardt and the staff of Bold Hat Productions will stage their 14th Fremont Oktoberfest. However, this year they will want to pay special tribute to the Oktoberfest that started it all, as the celebration in Munich marks its 200th year!
Not A ‘Sit-And-Sway’ Kind Of Thing
Megenhardt, who developed the original Fremont Oktoberfest over eight weeks in 1997, has never personally experienced the Munich festival. After all, it takes place at the exact same time folks flock to Fremont to taste microbrews and bid warm welcome to fall.
“The joy of Oktoberfest is how, over the 14 years, we’ve held true to the quirkiness of how it started,” explained Megenhardt, who took on the formidable task of building a fundraiser for the, at that time, financial strapped Fremont Chamber of Commerce. “’Hey, let’s do an Oktoberfest!,’” Megenhardt recalled being told, “that has nothing to do with Oktoberfest. Let’s do it the Fremont way!”
Today, “we’re the Fremont Oktoberfest,” he explained, “but we’re not a neighborhood festival.” Instead, it has become a regional draw, as Megenhardt sees it, as much a Seattle celebration as Fremont’s.
Sure, tasting microbrews, and celebrating fall and the fall beers, have a fundamentally Fremont feel – especially when joined with the frankly foolish Texas Chainsaw Pumpkin Carving. Yet, newer features such as ‘Dogtoberfest’ which invites dogs, and their human companions, to join the festivities on Sunday, and the City Dog modeling contest, fit Seattle’s pet penchant perfectly. And what could says ‘Pacific Northwest’ more than the Brew Ha-Ha 5K and Street Scramble, both of which celebrate the outdoors, and outdoor activity, in late September.
“People love starting Oktoberfests,” Megenhardt has noticed. He constantly hears about new celebrations launched, and sees them quickly lose steam. Many follow what he called the “Milwaukee-inspired” ideal – a “sit-and-sway” event, where attendees raise their steins, and keep time to the Polka music. “That is not Seattle, and that is not Fremont,” Megenhardt insisted. Instead, Fremont Oktoberfest offers microbrews, endless entertainment, a Kids’ Area, bicycle parking – and the Pyramid Village beer garden for those who just want to drink a local beer without buying a ticket to go in. They’ll probably even allow some sit and sway, for those so inclined.
A Taste of Germany
The first Oktoberfest, ever, took place in Munich as a wedding celebration between (the eventual) King Ludwig and Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810 – only to come back year-after-year ever since. To honor this impressive history of parties, Fremont Oktoberfest will get a touch traditional – in its own fashion. The Buxom Beer Garden will have 1-liter acrylic beer steins for sale, and offer eleven German beers – from both East and West Germany. Also, the poster art for Fremont Oktoberfest this year took inspiration from Germany, specifically a Porsche advertisement from the 1960s.
The Fremont Oktoberfest will also, as always, take place simultaneously with the Munich celebration – in September. While the royal wedding celebration began on October 12th, successive Munich Oktoberfest planners moved the two-week celebration up to late September, to take advantage of better weather. Megenhardt enjoys the thought of a two-week Fremont festival, but knows he is best off limiting his emulation to an appreciation of the benefits of late September Seattle sun.
So stop by and sip in fellowship with 200 years of tradition, on September 24, 25 and 26th. For tickets to the beer garden, or to see the list of activities going on, visit the Fremont Oktoberfest website. And if you want to see the party from the inside (and get free stuff) consider volunteering! It may not be Munich, but it is definitely Fremont!
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.