POSTED ON OCTOBER 21, 2009:
Never Gets Old
Oktoberfest thrills all with drinks, German food and a little something called the Chicken Dance
Beer, rides and a whole feast of German foods that you can't pronounce. Yep, it's definitely time for Oktoberfest. The annual German festival--and Tulsa staple--kicks off this weekend at the River West Festival Park.
Oktoberfest is a long-running tradition worldwide, usually featuring music, bratwursts and plenty of beer.
"Tulsa is a great place to throw a party," said Amber Hinkle, the executive director for this year's event. "I think there is something electric about our Oktoberfest."
The festivities kick off Thursday night with the tapping of the keg. Three things to note about this night and event: everyone in attendance gets free beer until the keg runs out; admission is free with a coupon from GeekRescue.com; and perhaps most importantly, it kicks off an entire weekend of eating, drinking and dancing.
To gear up for Oktoberfest, attendees should check out the official Web site, TulsaOktoberfest.org. The site includes helpful links that show promotions, entertainment, vendors and even a German/English dictionary (just in case you need to let someone know that you're "Fetznrausch," which means totally drunk in German).
This year's Oktoberfest is Tulsa's 31st annual event. Oktoberfest started in Munich in 1810, and Tulsa followed its lead many years later by providing authentic German food, music and alcohol.
In the German American Society's tent, all the food preparation is done under the supervision of cooks who were born and raised in either Germany or Austria.
While these strong traditions are the backbone of Tulsa's Oktoberfest, every year "we try to do something new and unique," Hinkle said. This year presents new tents, Oklahoma-brewed beers Choc and Marshall for the first time and a new Tulsa Oktoberfest logo, which is available on all T-shirts and merchandise.
German tradition and new things aside, local traditions have a large role in Oktoberfest. One tradition that's really stood out is the reliance on volunteers.
"The event is run solely by volunteers," Hinkle said. "This year, we have over 2,200." And that system works out pretty well. So good in fact that Tulsa's Oktoberfest is considered one of the top fall festivals in the country. It has also been listed as one of the Top 10 Oktoberfest Celebrations in the World by Destination360.com.
You might be surprised what nationwide tradition started right here in Tulsa, which could account for some of the event's popularity. It is a melody that all Tulsans know. And, depending on how many alcoholic beverages have been consumed, most can get to at least the fifth round or so. Oh, the Chicken Dance. "It was brought over from Germany and the song was very popular, but it was called the Duck Dance," said Arnold Bieber, the German American Society of Tulsa's chair for Oktoberfest.
Apparently, one of the bands came over and wanted to play it, but they couldn't find a duck costume anywhere. A local television station, however, had a chicken costume. You can probably figure out the rest of the story as the Chicken Dance is now popular all across the United States.
There will also be dancing that isn't of the chicken variety. The ladies from the Shadia Dahlal Dance Conservatory, a Tulsa studio that specializes in Middle Eastern dance, will belly dance at this year's event.
Proulx, one of the dancers, said she loves to head to Oktoberfest a couple of hours before the show to peruse all of the vendors, sample the strudel and check out other performers.
Proulx certainly isn't the only one led to Oktoberfest by the featured edibles, and there's plenty around to feast eyes and mouth on. Bieber, the previously mentioned Oktoberfest chair, said that their tent will serve bratwurst, polish sausage, knockworst, potato pancakes and stollen (rather, a Christmas bread). Guests will have to go elsewhere to get alcohol, since this tent only offers water and iced tea.
But don't worry, there are plenty of places to satisfy all your alcohol needs. They offer pitchers and pints with a full price list and beer description page on the Tulsa Oktoberfest Web site. Important to note: beer sales end 30 minutes before the festival closes each evening.
A highlight of Oktoberfest year after year is the family-friendly atmosphere. For children there will be rides and races to watch, and if the kids aren't ready to try the extravagant (yet tasty) foods, the German American Society of Tulsa offers kids' meals that include a hot dog with or without sauerkraut, one potato pancake and a drink. Potato pancakes are one of the more popular food items at the festival, according to Bieber, and are fried on a grill and served with apple sauce.
For those looking to participate in the grownup activities, there will be games such as bier stein races and beer pong. The bier stein races are all a matter of strategy. Mugs of beer are at the starting line, and the objective is to get all the beer to the finish line as quickly as possible without spilling. Every drop of beer counts toward your final time.
As for beer pong, the game will be set up with cups of water and you can buy your own pitchers of beer. There are lots of choices if you want to get ogschdocha (tipsy), Hinkle said, with more than 20 beers offered on tap.
For those with no interest in beer, there will be local wines to taste. One of the featured wines is the German Riesling "Veritkal." The Oklahoma winery Summerside will also be on site with samples.
One attraction that all ages can relate to is the music.
"No matter what kind of music you like, there will be something here for you," Hinkle said. There will be a tent sponsored by KMOD featuring rock bands such as RPM and Band Camp. Another tent, the Ess Zelt (in English, the eating tent), sponsored by KVOO will have a country flair, featuring artists such as Thomas Martinez. Of course, there will be authentic German bands playing in the Bier Garten, and the German American Society will have a brasscapella (brass band) performance.
Think Oktoberfest might have moths flying from your pockets? Think again. There are promotions almost every day to make the event as fun and as affordable as possible.
Friday, admission is free until 4pm, so hop down to Oktoberfest on your lunch break. The lines are shorter, the vendors are out, and you can check out the festivities while enjoying an authentic German meal.
Sunday is EZ Ride Pass day, when KBEZ sponsors $15 wristbands that allow for unlimited ride access. There are also two other promotions that should bring you out, even if they don't save you money.
Admission is $5 and children 12 and under are free. Festival hours are Thurs., Oct. 22, 5pm-11pm; Fri., Oct, 23. 11am-11:30pm; Sat., Oct. 24, 10am-11:30pm; and Sunday, Oct. 25, noon to 6pm.
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