Texas Traveler: Oktoberfests

The Texas Hill Country is full of place-names that make Texas Traveler yearn for her nth-generation German heritage. New Braunfels conjures up the scent of the bratwurst and sauerkraut my Moomaw used to make on weekend mornings (food which I loathed, by the way, until I turned about 25 years old). Fredericksburg perfectly replicates memories of the blue-eyed blonde-haired cowboy-clad men of my father's family, who eventually found their way to Oklahoma in search of free land.

From Lutheran churches to Luchenbach, it's all there in the middle of our state. And if the Adelsverein chose the Hill Country as the new colony for 7,000 persecuted German immigrants, why is one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations in the state, drawing more than 60,000 people last year, located in Addison, just north of Dallas?

The short answer? It was conceived as a hotel promotion in 1987 as a way to draw in customers. Despite its description as "an authentic re-creation of the Munich Oktoberfest," the event seems to be heavy on spectacle and light on culture. Much of the official website is dedicated to -- what else? -- selling packages at local hotels and promoting a VIP Bavarian experience, whatever that is. Activities include a German car show, a Corporate Challenge, wiener dog races and the largest Chicken Dance in Texas. Seriously.

Addison Oktoberfest is Sept. 17-20. Thursday night admission is free, admission the rest of the weekend in $5.

Oktoberfest (by which we mean the one in Munich) was originally conceived as a wedding celebration for Bavarian Prince Ludwig and his new bride Therese. A few decades later, the event was moved to the sixteen days before the first Sunday in October to take advantage of better weather.

So Addison's event at least has the timing right. But this being Texas, the weather is still plenty fine well into the late part of October, and two of the more subdued (and probably more authentic) festivals take place later in the year.

Fredericksburg's Oktoberfest will be October 2-4. In addition to the usual entertainment (polka bands, people in funny costumes, more beer and food than any sane person should consume), Fredericksburg's festival is also known for its association with the Pedernales Creative Arts Alliance and its juried art show. Proceeds from the show go towards scholarships for area students planning to study art or music in college. Tickets are $6 a day, $10 for 2-day passes and $15 for all weekend.

New Braunfels is home to Wurstfest, maybe the oldest German celebration in the state. Wurstfest is a 10-day celebration of all things sausage (plus other festivities of Teutonic origin) and draws more than twice as many visitors as Addison's event over several more days. Wurstfest always starts on the Friday before the first Monday in November (which is why it's not called Oktoberfest). This year it will run from Oct. 30 to Nov. 8. Tickets are $8 but beware: this event can get very crowded on weekends. Like Fredericksburg's event, Wurstfest's proceeds go towards a variety of community projects throughout the year.

Closer to home, the First Lutheran Church of Galveston hosts its 28th annual Island Oktoberfest October 23-24 at theThe Lyceum of Galveston Island, built in 1860 and recently renovated. The Lutherans aren't at all stodgy -- this event includes beer and wine, events for kids, and of course the food. So. Much. Food. Admission is free and visitors are also encouraged to dress in those silly traditional costumes. Maybe there's a reason Oktoberfest coincides so closely with Halloween.

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