By Carmel L. Mooney
Have you been in search of a way to celebrate Oktoberfest without forking out a thousand dollars for a round trip ticket to Munich?
I’ve been to Munich and while there is nothing wrong with enjoying the festivities in Germany, it might not be quite as attainable to some as a trip to Big Bear Lake, California that has one of the best Oktoberfest venues that the United States offers. It’s been rated in the Top 10, and in my opinion should be even higher in the ratings.
Big Bear Lake is celebrating its 49th year of Oktoberfest this year, a celebration that has become famous the world over, and with good reason.
It all began in 1971 when a local, German, immigrant couple, Hans and Erika Bandows, with a stellar work ethic and generous hearts for their community, founded a Big Bear Lake tradition that has continued for nearly five decades, and has entertained tens of thousands of visitors and locals ever since.
Much has happened to make it grander and more elaborate ever since that very first day that local Burgermeister Hans first struck a mallet to a wooden barrel of Oktoberfest beer, declaring “Ozphat Is.” Today the same charm and merriment continues, although on a grander scale and of much more epic proportions.
Hans and Erika’s family now lovingly help to keep the tradition alive and continue to make improvements every year.
For the 2019 festivities, nearly a half dozen authentic German bands provide the line up of authentic oompah music from polkas to waltzes, swing, and even rock and roll. Live music, excellent German food and crafts, contests, dancing, and performances all add to the hugely successful event that draws participants the world over.
Have you ever yodeled, sawed a log, carried steins, or drank German beer? What are you waiting for? You can compete with the world champions or just your own family and friends. We did!
(insert this link to my YouTube video of us competing there) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bwf3OZmQa4k
As if the never-ending fun was not enough, be prepared to feast as well. Did we mention food? Authentic streudel and sausage is brought in from real German bakeries and butchers as special delicacies just specifically for the event. The authentic schnitzel, German potato salad, pickled eggs, pigs knuckles, and sauerkraut will impress. Over 70 miles of these famous third-pound wursts, have been enjoyed by Big Bear Oktoberfest over the years. (If you linked the hearty sausages end to end.) Seems to me it’s time to start an 80 mile wurst club. There are several varieties to choose from and they are truly delicious.
Oktoberfest at Big Bear Lake does it right when it comes to beer, with over 25 offerings both domestic and imported. Many of the very same beers poured in Munich are offered, including Warsteiner, Paulaner, King Ludwig, and Dunkel.
Oktoberfest kicks off in the beginning of September and continues through the first weekend of November. The peak-season usually begins in October as September weekends tend to be less crowded while the alpine weather can be still quite warm with cool evenings. Sundays are special for families in Big Bear Lake with Oktoberfest Sundays being family day with free admission for kids under 12 and with German fun geared toward families with Children’s contests at 3:00 p.m. Weekend evenings get a little more crowded as the night progresses and tend to draw more adults than families.
Many participants dress up in authentic German garb or costume. Vendors offer Oktoberfest-friendly apparel that you can purchase there or you might choose to dress up before you go if you want to arrive ready.
For those who choose to imbibe, the Big Bear Trolley offers free rides to and from Oktoberfest on Saturdays and Sundays. There is also an excellent designated driver program offered at any food concession where they will provide the driver with a wristband good for free non-alcoholic drinks.
This visit to Bug Bear, we stayed in a spacious rental cabin offered by Resort Town Rentals. It was exquisitely decorated and appointed with a huge rock fireplace, gorgeous deck overlooking the alpine vistas, large family room, game room, sauna, and spa under the stars.
We had everything we could possibly desire when it came to creature comforts, as it had a full kitchen, several bedrooms, a pool table, and luxuriously comfortable linens, bedding, and toiletries. I highly recommend considering a stay at one of their many charming vacation rentals. They have something perfect for every size family or budget, and most within minutes of Oktoberfest and/or free shuttle transportation.
In the evening after a fun filled and festive day, we thoroughly enjoyed soaking in the spa on our private deck, under the spectacular blanket of stars that Big Bear Lake is so well known for. It felt fabulous after enjoying hours of dancing, dining, and contests at Oktoberfest. We were, of course, on “Big Bear Time,” which we savor any season we are lucky enough to visit.