6 Steps to an Oktoberfest Worth Singing About | ParkRecord.com

6 Steps to an Oktoberfest Worth Singing About

Anyone can buy a couple of six-packs, text a few friends, ask Alexa to play oompah music, and have a fun party. But for an Oktoberfest that’s true to the real Bavarian deal, you may want a little guidance.

For most of us, the name von Trapp calls to mind a troupe of children frolicking with Julie Andrews on an alpine hillside. And despite the liberties taken with their story in “The Sound of Music,” Baron Georg von
Trapp, his wife Maria, and those children were quite real, escaping Nazi-occupied Austria and eventually settling in Stowe, Vermont.

Over time, the clan opened the Trapp Family Lodge, a resort where the cross-country skiing is top-notch and the hospitality is proudly Old World. It’s also one of the top Oktoberfest destinations in the U.S.

Georg and Maria’s son Johannes is the president of today’s Lodge, and his children, Sam von Trapp and Kristina von Trapp Frame, are hands-on directors, involved with every aspect of resort life.

We spent a spirited hour with the latter two, Oktoberfest enthusiasts who discussed the joys of the celebration and how you can bring the party home.

Understand the tradition
Bavaria is the birthplace of Oktoberfest. In Munich, breweries erect temporary beer halls, people dress in traditional dirndls and lederhosen, and bands pump out oompah music for between five and seven million visitors annually.

“Our dad wanted to bring Oktoberfest here, so that everyone could participate in a little bit of the spirit. And it’s not just for our property guests,” says Kristina. “Even before we opened our beer hall, it was always a goal to make it a family friendly affair, a friendly afternoon for everyone.”

It’s the hubbub of kids playing cornhole, friends trying to carry eight beers back to the table without spilling, the upbeat music, and people admiring each other’s outfits, that makes it such a unique event. “People are just so happy to talk and be together. Every year our dad would stand up and explain the tradition, and it’s lovely to keep it going.”

Nail the timing
Munich’s Oktoberfest goes from mid-September to the first weekend in October. The Lodge bundles the festivities into a single day; this year, it’s September 17th. While Oktoberfest started in order to mark a royal marriage, Sam von Trapp says the real reason it occurs so early in autumn
is the weather.

Temporary beer halls are the heart of Oktoberfest parties, and according to Sam, “In Munich, it’s just too cold in October!” But, he adds, cold weather is integral to the production of the star of the show, since good beer is made from the coldest water.

In fact, he said he recently learned that the largest Oktoberfest event
outside of Bavaria is in Qingdao, China, where the cold climate helps produce that country’s best brews.

Pay attention to the beer
Beer has been flowing at Oktoberfest since the first celebration in 1810, when the people of Munich were invited to toast the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony Hildburghausen. And it’s been the focus of the party ever since.


The traditional beer is Märzen, a 5.6% libation brewed in March, left to ferment all summer, and consumed in the fall. Oktoberfest usually starts with the tapping of the cask, a foamy, exuberant ritual that Sam and his father perform to fanfare and a cheer of “Ozapft Is!” (“It has been tapped!”)

If things aren’t done correctly, it can be a little too exuberant. “Last year I was doing a barrel tapping in New York City,” recalls Sam, “and when I
knocked the tap in, the beer blasted out, spraying the entire restaurant. People were running and screaming! I could not have been wetter if I’d fallen into a vat of beer.”

His advice to those at home: “If you want to replicate the experience, shake up a few cans of beer and spray them on your crowd.”

The von Trapp brewery is one of the few in the U.S. that makes authentic Austrian-style lager, a mellow brew with a rich, bready flavor. While von Trapp brews are yet to wend their way west across the Mississippi, there’s probably no shortage of beer labeled “Oktoberfest” in your neighborhood, including a handful of imported lagers from the breweries that participate in the Munich Festival.

If you’re up in Stowe, your beer will be served in a coveted ceramic mug. At home, you can order ceramic or glass steins online, which will come in handy during the “Steinholding” competition, a strength contest in which the winner is the last person holding a full one-liter beer stein straight in front of their body. It’s harder than it sounds.

What to drink besides beer? Kids at the Lodge get artisanal root beer, and the beer hall has four wines on draft as well. But don’t get too fancy. Says Sam, “Oktoberfest is one of those events where even non-beer drinkers drink beer. It’s a time when people give themselves permission to go a little overboard. It’s a great excuse to celebrate beer and overindulge in it.”

Keep the food simple and delicious
According to Kristina, the food you serve can be equally low-key. As in your beverages, quality outranks variety. “Get some great cheeses, find a local butcher who produces artisanal sausages, and buy some quality sauerkraut.” Adds Sam, “And pretzels! Pretzels with cheese dip is a home-run anywhere you go. You can even buy partially baked pretzels and finish them off at home.”

Their house beer cheese dip is a true product of the region, made from their cousin’s von Trapp Savage cheese blended with a local Vermont Cabot cheddar. Where you serve everything is easy. A single long table creates a sense of community, and a big tent protects you from inclement weather.

Festoon it with string lights, order a few blue-and-white tablecloths — the traditional Oktoberfest colors — and see if you can round up a couple of old beer barrels.

Bring on the music
The signature of Oktoberfest music? Kristina says, “Something that’s upbeat and happy that puts a smile on your face.” Traditionally that meant plenty of accordion-and brass oompah music, with bands breaking into “Ein Prosit,” (literally, “cheers!”) every 15 minutes or so.

(According to Sam, “There’s no such thing as too many times to hear ‘Ein Prosit.’”) What may be surprising is the heavy rotation of American pop classics along with those folk tunes.

Among the most popular are two sing-along favorites, John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” accompanied by a sea of swinging beer steins.

For your own celebration, you’ll find scores of playlists on Spotify and the internet. But if it’s in your budget, take things up a notch and hire a live band. The von Trapps bring accordion players over from Germany, and have also found a couple of Bavarian-style bands in the hills of Vermont that kick things into high gear.

Follow the dress code
One of Oktoberfest’s most distinctive elements is the clothing. The von Trapps agree, guests sporting traditional Bavarian attire — dirndls for women and lederhosen for men — elevate the party to another level. “Whether they find it on Amazon or when they’ve been traveling, people show up in wonderful clothing. They’re so excited to break out the gear they brought years ago, and it’s a real ice breaker.” Sam says that creativity is key, recalling “One guy drew a pair of suspenders on a white T-shirt with a Sharpie.

Another fellow, a big burly guy, lost a bet and had to braid his hair and wear a dirndl.” Scour the internet for “trachten” attire (that’s the name of the traditional Austrian folk garb), and do as the von Trapps do — give an award to the best dressed. Perhaps to the guy in a dirndl.

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