Oktoberfest is the world’s largest funfair in the world, at least according to Wikipedia. Lasting a little bit more than a fortnight, this annual event always ends on the first weekend of October, which is where the festival gets its name from. You could probably dig up more about the history of this Bavarian tradition originating in Munich, but in short, it is a celebration with lots of beer, carnival rides, and food, not to mention the parades of ladies dressed in traditional dirndl dresses –if you don’t know what a ‘dirndl dress’ is, it’s the outfit stereotypically worn by a German woman who is usually accompanied with mugs of beer. In short, the end of September is a very awesome time to be in Germany—maybe that’s why Green Day wants to be woken up when September ends?
Unfortunately I wasn’t in Munich over the weekend, so instead of going to the world’s biggest funfair, I settled for one taking place in the “First State”, here in Newark, Delaware! The Delaware Saengerbund Oktoberfest is organized by the local German ‘singer alliance’ (the direct English translation of Saengerbund) and named after the original in Munich. This three-day event spans across the third weekend of September; there is a special dinner on Thursday, but the real festival starts on Friday night and finishes off on Sunday afternoon. You will definitely need some kind of private transportation to get there as the public transport system barely works around town. Tens of thousands of people will rain down on this tiny, temporary, tent-city, but parking isn’t too hard to find around the area, even during peak hours. There are “free” parking lanes on the streets, and shuttle buses will fetch you should you decide to park further at the local high school. Some houses near the Oktoberfest entrance charge $10 for parking in their backyard. This could be an option if you really want to get in the action as soon as possible.
The entrance fee for Oktoberfest is $8, which includes unlimited amusement rides but not for the ones where you can win prizes. The large crowds there discouraged me to explore that area, so I don’t know what kind of rides were available other than the ones I could see from across the festival, including a really tall neon glowing thingy. I assumed that’s where most of the kids were hanging out while their parents enjoyed the perks of an all-you-can-drink beer festival.
Surprisingly, the most important parts of the festival—food, beer and more food and beer—were also not included in the entrance fee. But unlike most carnivals, the prices there were very reasonable. Let’s get alcohol out of the way first. The biergarten served multiple brews of Oktoberfest beers, as well as the usual American drafts such as Bud Lite and Sam Adams. It seemed like you could get all your beer in 16oz cups if you wanted to, but I would advise you to buy a special edition glass mug, also known as a ‘stein,’ which comes with 1 or 2 refills depending on the size of the mug, from a half liter to a full liter. I had a feeling that the bartenders would top off any container you gave them for the same price, so using those half liter or liter steins would cost a lot less compared to the tiny 16oz plastic cups. You didn’t have to worry about the line either, as there were so many servers; the line probably moved faster than at a local bar.
I came to Oktoberfest for the German food. It’s true that what was served was not necessarily authentic nor did it taste even remotely like the food in Germany, but I guess it was close enough. Unlike the drink lines, the food lines were very long. The main food lines served German-style sausages and side dishes while other counters sold desserts and finger food like pretzels and (not raw) smoked herrings a.k.a. Rollmops. I was very surprised by the wide variety of sausages available there—there was grilled Bratwurst (pork sausage), Weisswurst (veal sausage), and Frankfurter. Considering we were at a carnival for a German festival in America, I would say that the Weisswurst exceeded my expectations. It was pretty darn succulent, and I would have gotten another one had the lines been shorter.
The organization provided a large number of picnic tables and chairs. It wasn’t too difficult finding a good spot to sit, as most people were standing around and drinking away. We managed to find one right next to the main dancing stage in the tent-city. While we were eating, a Bavarian dance group entertained the crowd with traditional dance and music. After they were done, the stage was taken over by a group of musicians that played German music, and the dance floor was opened to the public. I guess the presence of police deterred idiots from doing stupid stuff and nothing crazy happened the entire night. This in itself was a miracle considering the large amounts of alcohol everyone drank that night.
Overall, the Oktoberfest here in Newark won’t be as authentic as the one you find in Munich. This isn’t a drink-all-week event; rather, it’s closer to a cultural experience for the locals. However, I would definitely recommend this event to anybody within driving distance as a place to have some fun over the weekend. Just keep your expectations low—after all, this is a fundraising event run by the local dance organization and not a professional festival that organizers use to attract tourists around the country. Personally, I think it’s a great local event. At the very least, I can say I have been to Oktoberfest!
Address: 49 Salem Church Road, Newark, Delaware
Visited: September 15, 2014.
Edited by E. Chen