Saturday, October 23, 2010

Oktoberfesting around the Bay

If you've never experienced Oktoberfest there are a few places around the Bay Area which do a great job in recreating this celebration of music, food, and beer.

In this region The Nature Friends have two mountain top "Tourist clubs," one in Mill Valley just below Mt. Tamalpais and the other in Oakland's East Bay hills. Oktoberfests in both locations offer delicious Bavarian food, live bands, and beer on tap in beautiful mountain settings. It's not just about the beer, it's about being transported to a lively, European mountaintop chalet among folks who want to enjoy this annual celebration with friends and family members.

One of my favorite Oktoberfest sites is Joan and Peter's German Restaurant in San Juan Bautista. We had fun sitting in their outside picnic area listening to Alpiners USA while eating huge roasted veal shanks, then tossing the bones over the fence to a (very) happy dog belonging to their neighbors. Unfortunately Joan and Peter have discontinued their Oktoberfest celebration, at least for now. If they receive some requests, perhaps they will reconsider (hint, hint, nudge, nudge).

If you can't make it to one of these sites and like me, have nostalgia and yearning for some good Polka (or accordion) music in a 1950's family setting, check out Les Blank's 1984 documentary, "In Heaven there is no beer." YouTube has an outtake from this film featuring that great polka classic, "Who Stole the Kiszka?

If you are a hardcore accordion fan (go ahead, admit it), one of the quirkiest squeezebox festivals takes place in Cotati, California every August at the Cotati Accordion FestivalIf you go, don't miss the performance of "Lady of Spain," by anyone and everyone who shows up with an instrument. (The festival site provides LOS sheet music.) Those Darn Accordions often make an appearance, adding their own whimsy and rock-accordion vibe.

Of course, the grandaddy of all Oktoberfests for this region takes place in San Francisco at Pier 48, Oktoberfest by the Bay. Like most Oktoberfests, it takes place at the end of September, so plan on buying your tickets early for next year, or visit their Entertainment page to tap your feet with a free listen to the Chico Bavarian Band playing the Chicken dance. Nature Friends Schuhplatter provide traditional Bavarian dancing at this event as well. (Need Chicken Dance lessons before the next festival? Here is an old link from The Lawrence Welk Show that will show you how it's done. Those dancers did not get paid enough to have this professional clip live on in posterity.)

Click on "Find it for me" to see WorldCat resources on these subjects which may be available in your local library. (Enter your zip code to find your local branch.)
Thanks to the S.F. Nature Friends for allowing me to use their photo.

---Catherine Alexander Bright,