Time to pick a garten: Mount Angel Oktoberfest offers unique venues

September 2013 Posted in Community, Food & Drink
Mount Angel Oktoberfest
‘Share Our Bavarian Hospitality’
Sept. 12, 13, 14, 15
Thursday – Saturday,
11 a.m. – midnight
Sunday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
for schedule of events

By Kristine Thomas

Sneak a peak at a neighbor’s garden and you may discover plump, red tomatoes; corn and sunflowers taller than a NBA player; abundant zucchini or pumpkins the size of beach balls.

That won’t be the case if you look at what’s happening in the “gartens” of Ron Hammer, Michele Fennimore or Dick Fennimore.

The three are responsible for coordinating the activities at the four entertainment gartens during Mount Angel’s Oktoberfest.

Michele is responsible for the Weingarten, Dick the Alpinegarten and the Prostgarten and Ron the Biergarten.

“Share Our Bavarian Hospitality” is the theme for the 48th annual Oktoberfest, said Monica Bochsler, public relations director.

“Each of our four venues has something unique to offer,” she added.

The best part, Bochsler said, is guests can purchase a bracelet that allows them to visit all three paid venues – the Prostgarten is free.

This year the Harvest Monument in the center of town will feature all four gartens, she added.

While each garten has its own features – from the variety of beer and wine sold to its food and music – hey all specialize in welcoming guests.

“What Bavarian hospitality means to me is open ourselves up and sharing what we have as a community,” Bochsler said. “We share our bounty of the earth and the goodness of creation.”

If you’ve spent your time mostly on the street visiting food chalets, and haven’t ventured into a Mount Angel Oktoberfest garten, or tend to visit just one, the directors have provided information on what their garten has to offer. Here’s the pre-event preview:

Prostgarten at Saalfeld Park

Open for its third year, the Prostgarten on East College Street offers a European atmosphere with its open tent, Dick Fennimore said, adding there is no entry fee here.

Guest can select from German wines or beers and bring in food from one of the 50 food chalets lining the village streets.

What many people don’t know, Dick said, is that the money raised during Oktoberfest goes back in to the community. Each food booth is operated by a nonprofit organization that uses the funds to support its organization.

“The music at Prostgarten is acoustic accordian music,” he said. “The Prostgarten is a great place to meet a group of friends, get some food and talk. It is very low key and the ambiance is relaxed.”

There isn’t a bad seat in the house at the Alpinegarten. Photo by Jim Kinghorn

There isn’t a bad seat in the house at the Alpinegarten.
Photo by Jim Kinghorn


The Alpinegarten on South Garfield, he said, prides itself on doing things a little bit different and a little trendier.

“We want to feature the new things going on. We have a cider for the first time and if you are a beer geek, this is the place to try a great beer.”

Performers include the Greg Meier Alpine Quartet, Beer EduTainment, Gruber Family Bavarian Band and Salzburger Echo. Dick explained because the venue is smaller than the Weingarten or Biergarten, there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

“Every seat can see the stage and the entertainers do a great job of interacting with the crowd. The Grubers have a bobsledding song that gets the crowd leaning to the left, the right and raising their arms. This is where you will do the Chicken Dance and there is a contest to see who can hold a beer stein the longest.”

Compared with the other gartens, this is the most interactive, he added.

Additionally, for guests who want to learn more about how hops are grown, there is an exhibit by the Oregon Hop Growers Association.

What Dick enjoys about the festival is how happy both the patrons and the volunteers are to be there.

“I enjoy sitting down with people and asking what brought them to Oktoberfest,” he said. “I have met people from all over. Most people tell me they come because it is so much fun and there is good food and music.”

He also enjoys seeing the interaction between the different generations. The younger crowd will come to the Alpinegarten for its craft beers, while the older generation comes to dance the polka on the parquet floor.

People enjoy the music at the Weingarten. Photo by Jim Kinghorn

People enjoy the music at the Weingarten. Photo by Jim Kinghorn


There are many attributes that make the Weingarten – across the street from the Alpinegarten – a family-friendly venue, Michele said.

There’s the incredible food – fondue, Schnitzel sandwiches, sausages and other treats prepared by members of St. Mary’s Church. The classic sandwich and the fondue always get rave reviews.

“The Weingarten is a place people can sit down and relax with good wine or a good beer and great food while listening to great music,” Michele said.

One reason people return year-after-year, she said, is because of the Z Musickmakers, a Mount Angel Alpine Band.

“People have watched the Zollner kids grow up on the stage,” she said. “They put on a fantastic show and it is one everyone can enjoy.”

The Weingarten is also known for its sawdust floors and blue and white-checkered banners. There are six wines from Germany, five from Washington and Oregon and one from California, she added.

Laughing it would probably be easier to plan a wedding than to plan all the details for the Weingarten, Michele said what makes her job possible is the volunteers.

“Our volunteers welcome guests and make sure they know they are glad they are there,” she said. “It’s a really friendly atmosphere.

All ages enjoy dancing at the Biergarten. Photo by Jim Kinghorn

All ages enjoy dancing at the Biergarten. Photo by Jim Kinghorn


When the Biergarten opens in the Mount Angel Festhalle on Hwy 214 at noon, Ron Hammer said, there is immediately great polka music.

“There are some really good dancers who know all the traditional dances like the polka who spend the afternoon at the Biergarten dressed in traditional German clothing and dancing,” he said.

And when sun sets, the younger generation takes to the floor dancing to S Bahn, a Alpine rock group from Germany, or Die Schlauberger – Alpine Thunder – a group from New York City.

“That’s when you see people dancing with their hands in the air and jumping up and down,” he said. “The Biergarten is the dance venue. It is the true place to come and dance for the young and the old.”

Bands not to be missed at the Biergarten include Die Schlauberger, Oregon Polka Beats and S Bahn, he said.

Housed in the Mount Angel Festhalle, the Biergarten with its lofty ceilings and two-story decor has the ambiance of an authentic German village, he said.

What’s new this year, Ron added, is guests will be able to enjoy beer from the world’s oldest continuing operating brewery. The brewery traces its roots at the Weihenstephan Abbey in 768 A.D. A document from that year refers to a hop garden in the area paying a tithe to the monastery. A brewery was licensed by the City of Freising, Germany in 1040, and that is the founding date claimed by the modern brewery.

“I have tasted a lot of German beers and this is the best one I have had,” Ron said, adding the brewery is north of Munich.

During Labor Day weekend, Hammer and his crew of volunteers began setting up the Festhalle, first for the Oktoberfest Kick-off party on Sept. 7 and then the festival beginning Sept. 12.

“I enjoy everything about the festival from the people who attend to the volunteers to the food, music and drink,” he said.

Because each venue has something different to offer, Dick, Michele and Ron encourage guests to visit each garten.

Music for music lovers

For six years, Liz Schmidt has been the entertainment director for Mount Angel Oktoberfest. She loves planning the music for the different venues.

“You can hear everything from Old World folk music to yodeling to Alpine rock,” she said. “Wherever you go, you will find top-notch entertainment.”

While there is an entrance fee to hear music at the Wein, Bier and Alpine gartens, there are venues where it is free.

She encourages guests to visit the Village Bandstand to hear Sauerkrauts German Band, Marion County Citizens Band or Darlene Jones and Kerry Christensen. Or walk to St. Mary’s Church to hear a free concert by Doc Fleetwood, Rosewynde or Salzburger Echo Alp Horns.

The festival is intended to present a taste of Mount Angel’s Bavarian roots – from the food to the music, she said.

“There is music you don’t hear every day like Alpine horns that are rare and make you feel like you are in a meadow in Germany,” she said. “If you are a music lover, plan out your day to hear the various music performed at the festival.”

For Liz, Bavarian hospitality means celebrating with friends and family – the harvest is in, the work is done and “it’s a joyful time.”

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