At the 92nd Oktoberfest celebration last Sunday, the all-German food and beer menu and the verdant hillside scenery of the Oakland hills transported attendees to a bygone time and place, while the parade of dirndls and lederhosen left those in street clothes (like me), feeling like the odd one out.
The event, put on by Oakland Nature Friends, featured numerous competitions and loads of beer drinking, thanks, in part, to the band playing "Ein Prosit," Oktoberfest's most recognizable drinking song, between nearly every polka. In short, Oakland Nature Friends demonstrated that it's still the best authentic Bavarian experience in the East Bay.
With so much to do and so much to drink, it was easy for revelers to miss out on or forget the day's highlights. So in the spirit of due recognition, here are some awards for the Oakland Nature Friend's Best in Fest.
Greatest Feat of Strength: Dana Kipp, winner of the Stein-holding Competition
The day's first event was a test of endurance. Contestants were tasked with holding a stein full of sand upright and were disqualified upon spilling. According to a Nature Friends member, sand was used in place of beer because Oktoberfest is a "family-friendly event." (One wonders why holding a stein of beer draws a PG-13 rating, while "Ein Prosit," which amounts to peer-pressured drinking with accordion accompaniment, is considered family-friendly.)
After 4 minutes and 46 seconds, weary-armed Dana Kipp was the last man standing. Kipp didn't credit his victory to any special training, although later, after several more verses of "Ein Prosit," he sought me out to persuade me that he'd built his strength through years of bear wrestling.
Best Dish: Schweinebraten with red cabbage ... presumably
By early afternoon the schweinebraten (German-style pork loin) with red cabbage had sold out, leaving one to conclude that it was at the most in-demand dish, if not the most delicious. After a thirty-minute wait in line, I settled for a bratwurst with tangy sauerkraut and a side of spätzle (a type of German noodles with a savory beef gravy).
Best Drink: Colaweizen
The half-hefeweizen, half-cola concoction was made by a Munich native. It was surprisingly refreshing; the citrus zest of the hef and sweet cola flavored well together. The friendly Münchner drank it straight from a pitcher and claimed, "You can drink colaweizen all day!" He implied that the diluted drink keeps imbibers from reaching critical intoxication. I came to doubt the veracity of his claim, though, as he interrupted me more than once to tell me something in German, despite the fact that I informed him repeatedly that I do not speak the language.
Best Yodelers: Mark Fogarty and Marilyn Pomeroy, winners of the Yodeling Competition
The midday yodeling contest featured the largest field of contestants, due to the participation of a number of rugged-looking young men who had signed up after being told they were entering a wood-chopping competition.
From among these men, the cavalier Mark Fogarty, a self-styled "shower singer," advanced to the finals. His untamed yodeling won favor with host Frau Riesner, as well with much of the audience.
Fogarty's rival was Marilyn the "Human Jukebox" Pomeroy, who nailed every "yo-duh-la-da-dee" with pitch-perfect warbling. Though stylistically different, the competitors were too close declare a winner.
Best Toasters: Tischrunde Dahoam (Bavarian culture meetup group)
The fine volk of Tischrunde Dahoam never left their shaded table and didn't seem to care for dance or frivolity. Rather, in true Munich beer hall fashion, they only did three things: sit, stand, and drink. Every time the band played "Ein Prosit," the group's members were the first on their feet and the last to put down their steins. Special recognition goes to the group's founder and Bavarian native, Hans Diehl, who compelled those around him to sing along, as if he could draw the German language out of others with passion and volume.
Most Surprising Outcome: The Hammering Competition
No one was injured.
Most Coordinated at Day's End: Oakland Nature Friends' Schuplattler (dance group)
The Nature Friends' own dance group closed out the day with several stunning routines. Its rendition of the ländler, the dance made famous by Maria and Papa Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, was beautified by a backdrop of the sun cascading over the bay. The group also performed the flirtatious rommelhuber, a dance that portrays chaste women scolding and slapping their debaucherous male partners.
Despite the many hours of drinking, neither the Nature Friends' Schuplattler nor the event itself for that matter, ever seemed to miss a step.