Oktoberfest this weekend

MEEKER | Oktoberfest celebrations span centuries, continents and cultures.This weekend, thanks to the hard work of the folks at Smoking River Brewing Co., the tradition is making its way to Meeker. Bavarian-inspired festivities are slated to kick off with a Volksmarch (more on that below) Friday, Oct. 15 at 4 p.m., followed by Meeker’s first annual Oktoberfest Saturday, Oct. 15 at 3 p.m.

Before we jump into the specifics of Meeker’s very own celebration, let’s head back to the year 1810. Ludwig I is prince of Bavaria, and is set to marry Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, who has just narrowly escaped marrying Napoleon (yes, that Napoleon.) They throw a massive wedding party and horse race Oct. 17, 1810, in a great big field, and everyone has so much fun they decide to make it an annual event.

This “Oktoberfest” was a bright spot in what would prove to be a troubled marriage, as Prince Ludwig turned out to be quite a womanizer, which eventually led to his downfall. Therese was so beloved that the country soured on Ludwig for his behavior, and he was eventually forced to abdicate his throne due to the political turmoil surrounding one of his mistresses, Lola Montez.

The green where the official Oktoberfest celebration is held every year, Theresienweise, is named in honor of Queen Therese, as well.

Ludwig II

Ludwig I often suffers a case of mistaken identity with his wildly eccentric, terrified-of-dentists-and-obsessed-with-operas grandson, the “Mad King” Ludwig II, who built several of Bavaria’s most famous castles – including Neuschwanstein (the castle that inspired Disney) – and almost bankrupted the state in the process. Ludwig II was declared insane, forcefully removed from power, and three days later his body, and that of his personal psychiatrist, were found floating in Lake Starnberg. 

The cause of Ludwig’s death remains a mystery to this day. It was ruled a suicide, but conflicting testimony and sparse evidence cast doubt on the official version of the story. For instance, Ludwig’s personal fisherman, Jakob Lidl, may have been recruited to help Ludwig escape. In his personal diary, Lidl wrote that Ludwig was shot in the back by assassins while climbing into his boat. The original of that diary, however, has mysteriously disappeared. To this day, King Ludwig’s family have refused all calls to have the body exhumed for forensic analysis.

But anyway, back to Oktoberfest.

According to the Bavarian State Library, Ludwig II wasn’t that into Oktoberfest (he was too busy being eccentric and cultivating his pathological fear of dentists) and only attended five out of 18 celebrations that occurred during his reign. This changed the flavor of the event from an extravagant party honoring the nation’s royalty to something more entertaining for the average Bavarian. Many of the traditions we associate with Oktoberfest today – competitions, tents, booths, rides and beer halls – blossomed during this time.

Ludwig II didn’t attend many Oktoberfests, favoring instead whimsical and eccentric pursuits like the building of magnificent castles including Castle Neuschwanstein (above). WIkipedia Photo

The event has expanded over the years with many spin-offs around the world – and millions of gallons of beer – being enjoyed in late September and early October.

Smoking River co-owner Kristofer Borchard is excited to bring the fun of Oktoberfest to Meeker, in part to celebrate the German heritage of his family but also to “create more festivities for Meeker.” The event coincides with the first weekend of rifle season.

First up will be the Volksmarch, which is basically an organized walk around town that includes snacks and brews. Head to the Meeker Cafe, 560 Main Street, starting at 4 p.m. Friday to purchase your stein and pick up your “passport.” Make your way to Glou Glou at 317 E. Market St. no later than 6 p.m., then head to the Brewing Co. at 101 E. Market St. End the evening at Chippers, 285 6th St., with live music by Matt Holliday starting at 8 p.m. Enjoy Oktoberfest-themed food and drink at each establishment along the way, and be sure to get your passport stamped at each location for a chance to win a stein and a limited-edition Oktoberfest T-shirt featuring Queen Therese.

Friday’s Volksmarch will be followed by an Oktoberfest celebration Saturday at Smoking River Brewing Co. There will be German-inspired beer, including a special Oktoberfest amber lager, dancing, games and contests galore.

Saturday, festivities begin at Smoking River Brewing Co. at 3 p.m. Enjoy German-inspired beer, dancing, games and contests. Activities for kids will take place from 3-5 p.m.

If you’re of the competitive nature, or just love beer, hot sausages and/or lederhosen, you can enter early bird contests starting at 3 p.m., or evening contests beginning at 6 p.m. Winners will get prizes including steins, growlers and limited-edition Oktoberfest T-shirts.

Contests will include a “stein hold” to see who can hold full mugs the longest, a stein race to test your agility, a yodeling contest, a costume contest and the crowning of Mr. and Mrs. Oktoberfest, a hot curryworst challenge to see who can handle some of the hottest pepper-infused sausages around, beer pong and last but not least, a beer chug challenge, the winner of whom will face head brewer Tyler Frye.

Journalist Lucas Turner interviewed Frye this past week about the festivities and special Oktoberfest batch that will be served at the event. It is an amber lager that takes about six weeks to produce.

Check out our interview with Smoking River head brewer Tyler Frye on our Facebook page!

“Historically German culture is really significant to American craft brewing. There’s a really strong kind of German and craft beer heritage in the U.S., and Oktoberfests is renowned for being THE beer festival. It’s a great time to celebrate and a really cool thing to celebrate,” Frye told the HT. 

You can catch the full interview on our Facebook page @ht.1885. 

Cheers, or as the Bavarians say, prost!

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