Love is in the beer

Oktoberfest, adopted by the world, celebrates German royal wedding

Posted: Thursday, September 14, 2006


  Photo by Patrice Kohl

Photo by Patrice Kohl

Beer, bratwurst and big-bellied oom-pah bands might summarize the average American’s impression of Oktoberfest. Yes, good food, ales and polkas are to be expected, but what is missing from the thumbnail imagery above is the attitude. Oktoberfest can supply an insane amount of fun.

What began with a public celebration of a royal wedding in 1810 has grown into a worldwide festival in which communities come together for dining, dancing and the sampling of wares provided by local breweries. And if you’re looking for an evening of such entertainment, food and fun, you need look no further than the Oktoberfest celebration to be held at the Kenai Elks Club at 7 p.m. Saturday.

This year, beer will be provided by Kenai River Brewing in Soldotna, a budding new business already known for brewing one of the best India Pale Ales, or IPAs, around. Owner Doug Hogue said they will provide Sunken Island IPA, a delightful malty English style ale, along with Skilak Scottish, a smooth, delicious dark beer with just a hint of smoky flavor.

Talk to anyone about past Oktoberfests in this area and you will hear rave reviews about the music. Die Alaska Blaskapelle is Southcentral Alaska’s own authentic polka band. The band has been around in some form or fashion since 1962 and can be counted on to play the Oktoberfest circuit around the state each year.

According to baritone player Neal Haglund, there are about 40 musicians who pool their efforts to bring a 10-piece band to each fall festival. They play music that gets people up and dancing — polkas, waltzes, tangos and the famous Chicken Dance.

Their music appeals to all ages, but getting all ages to give a polka band a chance is sometimes tricky. Haglund said they’ve been known to cunningly refer to themselves as a heavy metal band in leathers — an accurate representation given the brass and lederhosen.

Inquire about Oktoberfest and another common theme you’ll encounter is an enormous appreciation of the Chicken Dance. The Chicken Dance oom-pah song dates back to 1950s Switzerland, and over the past 50 years it has become an Oktoberfest staple.

You know the song, even if you’ve never danced the dance. Here is your chance to dance the dance. Click your beak, flap your wings and shake your tail feathers.

This year marks the seventh annual Oktoberfest put on by the Kenai Elks Club to benefit KDLL Public Radio. Expect a menu that is decidedly German, consisting of bratwurst, sauerkraut, lentil soup and apfelkuchen, and in keeping with tradition, locally brewed beer. Expect an atmosphere that is light-hearted and celebratory —informal polka lessons provided.

Dinner with locally brewed beer is $10; dinner with a nonalcoholic beverage is $7.50.

KDLL manager Allen Auxier said the event has sold out for several years running, so advanced ticket purchase is recommended. The event benefits KDLL, but also offers the community a convivial international experience with an emphasis on light-hearted fun.

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