German fest draws thousands

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SNOWBIRD — The granite peaks of Little Cottonwood Canyon may be thousands of miles away from the Alps of Bavaria, but for 17 days leading to autumn, it reminds native Germans like Sylvia and Walter Schwemmer of their homeland.

The couple spent Sunday reveling in the cheerful atmosphere of Oktoberfest at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort with four generations of their family.

Originally from Hanover, Germany, Sylvia said participating in the festivities has become an annual event the entire clan, with everyone dressed in traditional German attire. Her husband Walter, born in Nuremberg, sat holding his granddaughter as they enjoyed oom-pah music being played in the event's main tent.

"We keep up the tradition of the German Oktoberfest," he said — dressed in leather lederhosen, suspenders and wearing a trenker hat with a feather.

The couple says, in Munich, the country's third largest city, 6 million people flock to Oktoberfest celebrations there.

The original "Oktoberfest" occurred in Munich on October 12, 1810 — the event celebrated the Royal Bavarian wedding of King Ludwig to Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.

When you come to Oktoberfest, you leave all of your troubles down in the valley. You just have a good time (as you) enjoy the meals, the music --it just stimulates you!

–-Ken Ford

The festival was dedicated to the fall harvest and the region’s most famous product — beer. Tradesmen and merchants came from throughout Southern Germany to join in the merrymaking — examining crops, singing, dancing and sampling the first brews of the season.

The celebration was such a success that Ludwig issued a royal decree making every October in Munich a festival time. Oktoberfest has been held annually ever since and has grown into the largest of all German beer festivals.

In Germany, Oktoberfest is a 16-day to 18-day festival held annually in Munich, running from late September to the first weekend in October. It is among the most famous events in Bavaria and one of the world's largest fairs, with more than 5 million people attending annually.

The first Snowbird Oktoberfest in Utah occurred 39 years ago, when two men — costumed in leather lederhosen — came to Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort to play their accordions and sing in their native German tongue. Over the years, Oktoberfest has become the premier celebration of German food, music, dance and fun in the state attracting nearly 60,000 visitors each year.

Oktoberfest Halle features various tastes of Bavaria with entertainment from local and national German bands and yodelers each day of the festival. The family event also lets kids enjoy face painting, balloons, caricature artists, performers music and inflatable rides.

"We're having a little bit of everything. We've had some bratwurst, we had a lot of German food, some German cake," said Peter Matus, from Salt Lake City.

While the festival offered vestiges of home for the families like the Schwemmers, the event was also a way to enjoy time with family and friends for Ken Ford. Since moving to Utah from Seattle some time ago, he said Oktoberfest has become one his favorite annual activities.

"When you come to Oktoberfest, you leave all of your troubles down in the valley," he said. "You just have a good time (as you) enjoy the meals, the music … it just stimulates you!"

Written byJasen Lee and Sandra Yi


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