It is a new take on a classic old world tradition when the first Klamath Basin Oktoberfest is held at the Bill Collier Community Ice Arena on Saturday, Sept. 21.
On par with culture-specific holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo, Oktoberfest is a grand Bavarian tradition celebrating fall harvest, but has morphed over time to encapsulate a day where regardless of individual heritage everyone can celebrate being a little bit German. Yet while the other holidays have become mainstays in the Klamath Basin, Oktoberfest has been sorely absent until now.
Coinciding on the same date as traditional Oktoberfest’s launch (which in Germany lasts for over two weeks with origins in Munich), Klamath’s version, like other similar holidays synonymous with a specific heritage, takes its own spin with both nods to the old world and new. The family-friendly event offers a little something for everyone, presenting a daylong bounty of food and live entertainment.
The holiday is known for traditional German dishes such as bratwurst, sauerkraut, pretzels, and of course beer.
Hosted by the Klamath County Economic Development Association (KCEDA), Oktoberfest brings together the best in regional food and brewing in a festive atmosphere starting at 2 p.m. and continuing until 9 p.m. Libations from over 10 different brewers will be available, from local favorites such as Skyline Brewing Company, Mia’s & Pia’s, and Klamath Basin Brewery; to regional brewers such as Ninkasi – based in Eugene. There will even be a People’s Choice Award granted based on popular vote.
“Our first inspiration for this was to feature our local Klamath Basin breweries, and nobody had done an Oktoberfest here at much of a level, so why not combine the two and add to our tourism,” said Rick Abel, project manager for KCEDA. “Yes, we send out brochures and promote, but we feel like you have to get people to Klamath Falls to experience it and really appreciate it. From a quality of life standpoint the more family-friendly events we have the better.”
According to Abel, a strong motivating factor was Klamath’s newest brewers, Skyline Brewing Company. The fast-growing operation has been aggressive in its growth but kept out of several out-of-town brewfests due to their current size and lack of distribution, so why not bring the brewfest culture to Klamath to feature them, as well as Klamath’s well-established brewmasters in Mia’s & Pia’s and Klamath Basin Brewery.
Mug at the ready
For adults wishing to imbibe in the many different styles of brew to be available, a tasting mug must be purchased for $20, which comes with five beer tokens. One token equals four ounces, or four tokens for a full mug. Additional tokens can be purchased in packs of four for $5. Mugs can be purchased at the gate, or online at www.klamathoktoberfest.org.
Food on-site will include a variety of offerings courtesy of Tyler’s Taste of Texas Barbecue, the ever-popular Mac and Cheese Steaks food truck, and the Running Y Ranch Resort’s renowned Ruddy Duck Restaurant. The Ruddy Duck will add a little German flavor to the event, offering German Sausage and pretzels.
There will also be Alex’s Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches as a great means to beat the heat. While sealed water bottles will be allowed inside, no outside food, beverages or coolers will be permitted inside the event.
The event is about far more than just food and drinks, however. For kids, the Start Making a Reader Today (SMART) program will offer a variety of free games.
Beginning at 3 p.m., music entertainment will be provided courtesy of local favorites Nephilim and Mile Long Fuse playing familiar favorites, as well as the polka band Fleishklopfer (the German word for meat tenderizer, or a more literal translation of “meat knocker”) adding a little oompa to the traditional festivities with what Abel described as “German dinner theater.” There will also be a DJ present spinning popular tunes for the crowd.
For those wanting to put their German heritage (if only for a day) on full display, German hats and souvenir shirts will be available for purchase.
While any first-time effort may come with its inevitable kinks, Abel has been excited about the initial response to the idea of adding Oktoberfest to the Klamath calendar on the same day that the traditional festival begins in Germany. He hopes this quickly becomes a beloved annual tradition, only growing in scale in the coming years. There are already ideas stirring for future Oktoberfest events in 2020 and beyond, such as an expanded menu of traditional Bavarian dishes, polka bands, and even wiener dog races.
“We think it can be a hit, and maybe five years from now it’s a three-day event instead of one,” said Abel. “We always hear the comment ‘what’s there to do in Klamath’, we hope this can add to that landscape. This is a time for some wholesome family-friendly fun. It is a time to rejoice as a community, take advantage of our unbelievable fall weather, and again show that there are fun opportunities in Klamath Falls.”
Those planning to attend are asked to please leave pets at home, though service animals are allowed. Low-profile chairs and kid-carriers are also permitted. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult, kids 12 and under are admitted free of charge.
While the event is at its heart a grand and fun-filled celebration, there is a worthy cause behind the effort. The Klamath Basin Oktoberfest serves as a fundraiser for Integral Youth Services (IYS), as well as Klamath Ice Sports and the Bill Collier Community Ice Arena. These organizations work diligently to offer positive opportunities for area youth through winter sports, as well as a multitude of human services, mentoring, and outreach possibilities via IYS in the Klamath Basin.
A free shuttle service will be provided from the Running Y Ranch Resort’s parking lots to the event locale at the Collier Ice Arena.
Tickets for the first annual Klamath Basin Oktoberfest may be purchased at the door or in advance at www.klamathoktoberfest.org. The Bill Collier Community Ice Arena is located at 5075 Fox Sparrow Drive in Klamath Falls, adjacent to Running Y Ranch Resort.