Tempting traditions: Mount Angel Oktoberfest offers many forms of fun

September 2016 Posted in Arts, Culture & History
Marilyn Hall shows off one of her handmade dirndls.

Marilyn Hall shows off one of her handmade dirndls.

From the Harvest Monument gracing the center square to the Bavarian-themed food booths to the music and dancing, German traditions can be found throughout Mount Angel’s Oktoberfest.

Celebrating its 51st anniversary, the festival runs Sept. 15-19. Whether you like to dance, eat or explore, there’s something for everyone at this festival. Here are a few traditions to share.


The tradition of beer

Who would have guessed the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Bavaria in 1810 would have a direct tie to Mount Angel’s world-class Oktoberfest?

That marriage celebration started the Oktoberfest phenomenon that the world celebrates today and Mount Angel, home of the Oktoberfest that the Munich newspaper calls the “best one in the world outside of Munich.”

But let’s talk beer. What role does it play in the festival and how are the beers selected? How have things changed over time? Peter Schmidt is beverage director for the event.

Schmidt said beer is in the blood and culture of Bavaria, and for many years at Oktoberfest, the “culture” was a choice of one beer – Blitz or Oly.

“Both are a version of German Lager beer,” Schmidt said. “Over the decades of our festival the beer drinking attendees have enjoyed a progression from that limited menu in one garten, to two, three, and now four gartens, each offering a unique mix of the finest beers available for export from Germany to special hand-crafted beers made right here in the Pacific Northwest. In 2016, there were 30 beers to choose from.”

Alan Taylor, Brewmaster of PINTS Brewing Co., Ponderosa Brewing Co., and Zoiglhaus Brewing Co.,  said this is the first year his company is supplying the festival.

“We did brew two beers just for it – The Mt. Angel Oktoberfestbier and the Zoigl-Dunkel,” Taylor said. “Both use all-German ingredients and are brewed to the German Purity Law by our German-trained brew master and his team.” Taylor’s company works with Maletis Beverage, the firm that is the supplier for Mount Angel Oktoberfest.

Schmidt says Oregon grows some of the best hops in the world and the combination with great water and “a very adventurous beer drinking culture” makes choosing beer for the Mount Angel Oktoberfest a wonderful challenge.”

– Dixon Bledsoe


The tradition of the Catholic Church

To understand the importance of the German hertitage in Mount Angel, simply look up the hill toward St. Mary Catholic Church. Visitors can see the Gothic church, explore a nationally recognized library — and all the while admire historical architecture.

 “Come to a festival like this for a holistic experience for the family,” Fr. Philip Waibel said.

Fr. Philip has been the pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church in Mount Angel for 14 years. The church was founded in 1881.

“It’s built in the neo-Gothic style, which was a very prevalent style especially during the Victorian age. The German Catholics kind of latched onto it,” Fr. Philip explained.

“The Gier brothers came from Germany via Texas and they were the architects of this church. It is a beautiful building on the national historic register and one of the most beautiful churches in Western Oregon,” he said.

Fr. Philip welcomes all to come and relax in the church.

“Oktoberfest is very family friendly. If you have kids, there are two ways to get up to the Abbey. You can either walk, or on the weekend they have shuttle tractors and trailers going back and forth.”

The Abbey was founded in 1882. “The monks came from Switzerland to work with the German-speaking people here. The Sisters were founded at the same time.”

“One of the things on the Abbey Hill is a library that is nationally famous because of Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto, Finland’s equivalent to Frank Lloyd Wright. He designed everything in the library: The building, furnishings and lighting.”

Sr. Marietta said the Queen of Angels Monastery booth will have their “famous coffee cake, Marionberry scones and fudge made by the Brigittine Monks. Homemade jewelry will also be available.”

– Nancy Jennings


The tradition of Bavarian dress

When it comes to Oktoberfest, Marilyn Hall says she never wants to lose her excitement of dressing up.

Hall made her first dirndl in 1984 for her infant daughter with used fabric that was only a little less than $2 a yard. Today, Hall has more than 300 dirndls and 170 lederhosen in her collection of donated and hand-sewed outfits.

Hall says traditionally, girls wear dirndls equip with a blouse, bodice, full dress and apron of all colors and material. Boys wear leather lederhosen over button-down shirts with high socks. The outfits that are worn during modern Oktoberfest originated in Bavaria, which were modeled after working peasant clothes in other parts of Europe.

To be even more technical, the way that a girl ties her apron is dependent on her relationship status. Single: tie to the left.Taken: tie to the right. Widowed (or a waitress): tie in the back.

However, “In Mount Angel, I’ve never seen a boy pay very much attention to how the apron is tied on a girl,” Hall said.

Hall receives used dirndls and lederhosen from community members and repairs them for the upcoming Oktoberfest to be used by local children, dancers, or anyone who asks for one.

“I’m not a prolific dress maker. I make a few a year, but I mainly do repairs” Hall said. “Girls will come over and just squeal while looking for their dress. It’s fun for me to see them get their dresses and take them home.”

Although she can’t do this forever, Hall said “I’m really not tired of it. I’m not over it. All these years I’ve tried to get people to dress up. Seeing photos over the years of these kids dressed up is like a dream come true.”

Dressing up for the Oktoberfest is just like any other holiday, Hall said. “It’s like going to a Halloween party when you’re not dressed up. It’s much more fun to be a part of it.”

– Hannah Kloft


The tradition of music and dance

For Oktoberfest President Chris Bischoff, the music and the dancing set the tone for the festival. There are six stages for guests to enjoy music or dancing – the Biergarten, Weingarten, Alpinegarten, Prostgarten, Village Bandstand and St. Mary Church.

“We have everything from the traditional accordion waltz to alpine rock,” Bischoff said. “Because of the broad range of music we have at each venue, we have something for everyone to enjoy.”

The Alpinegarten is known for more traditional German bandstand music. The Weingarten is were guests can find the hometown favorite, the Z-Musikmakers. The Biergarten starts out traditional during the day and gets more lively during the evening,” he said. Bischoff encourages visitors to go to the church to hear the organ and vocal concerts. The bandstand plays music that gets the crowd dancing, including local dance groups.

From the Prostgarten at one end to the Biergarten at the other, Bischoff said music and dancing creates a festive mood.

“The festival really starts with the traditional German music,” he said.

– Kristine Thomas

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