Oktoberfest is the world's largest Volksfest or beer folk festival. It’s held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. This 16 to 18 day festival starts in mid or late September and lasts until the first weekend in October. In addition to mass quantities of beer flowing, joyous music abounding, and various amusement rides, Oktoberfest is also known for its enticing array of delectable foods. Visitors can enjoy Brezen (giant pretzels), Schweinebraten (roast pork), Steckerlfisch (fish on a stick), Kasespatzle (cheese noodles), Sauerkraut, Weisswurst (white sausage) and many other mouthwatering German fair goodies. More than 6 million people from around the world attend the folk festival every year. The Oktoberfest celebration, dating back to 1810, is an important part of Bavarian culture. Cities all across the world hold Oktoberfest celebrations that are modeled after the original Munich event.
I was excited all week for the fourth annual C-U Oktoberfest, held on October 1st. Having spent time living, working and drinking in Germany, I have a special place in my heart for events like this. The festival had live Bavarian music, traditional Oktoberfest fare, dancing and a wide selection of german beers, including one brewed just for the event.
When I arrived with my family around 4 p.m., the party was already in full swing (cost for entry was $5 per person, kids 5 and under free). The white tents were filling up with jovial eaters, drinkers and dancers ready for the eventful night ahead. There were three main tents: the food/beer tent, the music tent, and a bigger beer tent. The larger main tent had wooden picnic-style tables lined up in rows, this is where the live music was set up and a majority of the waltzing and polkaing took place. Some of the tables in the main tent were reserved for major donors and high schools, but there was no lack of seating. Bar tables were set up in all of the tents, and many families and groups of friends simply spread out on the comfortable stretches of green grass.
The Oktoberfest food selections were abundant. To get food, you purchased tickets at $1 a piece at the main ticket and souvenir tent. Chester’s BBQ food truck served up 1/2 chickens, nachos, and more.
Desthil offered up huge Bavarian pretzels for 3 tickets and weisswurst and currywurst for 5 tickets each. They also had a full plate for 8 tickets, which included a bratwurst, sauerkraut, and german potato salad. You could also get just the German potato salad for 3 tickets. I chose a weisswurst and a glossy brown pretzel dotted with huge white flecks of salt. The sausage popped in my mouth and the hot juices ran out as I took my first bite — a very good sign. It was so tasty! I was a bit disappointed that there was only yellow mustard available. I could have gone for a nice spicy whole grain mustard with my meal. The pretzel had a great crunch on the outside and the inside was deliciously chewy. Last, but certainly not least, there was the crispy fried schnitzel on a stick served with the traditional savory brown gravy and garnished with fresh parsley (5 tickets). It was so scrumptious. Perfectly golden brown and crisp on the outside and the pork inside was tender and juicy. It brought me straight back to my own travels in Deutschland.
To wash down all of this tasty food, I chose a JT Walker’s C-U Oktoberfest beer that was brewed specifically for the event. It was a beautiful orangey caramel color and had a light taste with a smooth finish. It had less of a bite that I expected and paired nicely with all of the heavy foods. I also sampled the satisfying Weisenheimer Hefeweizen offered by Desthil, which had a bright banana taste and fruity aroma. I couldn’t sample them all, but there were beers from The Blind Pig, JT Walker’s, Triptych, Orange and Blue Distributing and Marketplace Selections, as well as the German brews. (All of the beers were 5 tickets each.)
I finished my meal and began to stroll around with my C-U Oktoberfest stein ($5) and soak up the lighthearted atmosphere all around me. Everywhere I turned there were children with beaming faces and groups of friends laughing and joking companionably with one another. The light of the evening was beginning to fade and the strings of lights in the tents began to glow. I sat on the curb at the back of the tent and watched as festival goers offered up prost (german for cheers), enjoyed dancing the polka, ate the authentic Bavarian food, and genuinely enjoyed being out in their beloved community.
The C-U Oktoberfest was not only a fun, family friendly event, it was also an important fundraiser. All of the proceeds from this event went to benefit the Developmental Services Center here in Champaign. DSC’s mission is “to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities by providing services and supports which enable them to live, work, learn and participate in their communities.” It was a special night for an incredibly important cause.
My family and I had such a tremendous time eating, drinking, laughing and playing at this exciting event. We can’t wait until Oktoberfest 2017!
All photos by Rebecca Wells.