What better way to savor fall than at the 10th annual Great Northwest Oktoberfest, Sept. 26-28 and Oct. 2-5 in Whitefish. This year’s event moves to a new venue: the “Oktoberfest Bigtop” at Smith Fields, just east of North Valley Hospital. As always, the celebration of all-things German offers plenty of oom-pahs and chicken dancing, plus abundant brews and brats.
Weekend one features Europa, an East Coast band that’s back by popular demand for the seventh straight year. One of the most sought after Oktoberfest bands from Montana to Miami, the crew cranks out oom-pah, polka and waltzes, along with a bit of country, Gypsy fiddle and Santana.
Western Senators descend on Whitefish from the Great White North to headline Week 2 of Oktoberfest with their infectious mix of rollicking polkas, and country and western swing music. The Saskatchewan-based band has 24 albums, 23 DVDs, 82 PolkaRama TV hows, and a Grammy nomination to their credit. They have been featured at Minot`s Norsk Høstfest every year since 2006, have made five appearances at the Kimberley Accordion Festival, and were featured at the Cleveland Polka Hall of Fame Awards show.
The Flathead Valley’s own Bavarian Echoes play each Saturday afternoon of the Great Northwest Oktoberfest, revving up the crowd with oom-pahs, polkas, and their authentic alpine horns.
Entertainment also includes some of the craziest contests around, including keg hurling, men’s and women’s stein holding, log sawing and waitress races (no entry fee or sign-up required). Kids’ chicken dance contests begin at 2:45 p.m. each Saturday.
Meet candidates for the coveted Hop Queen crown at 6 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Firebrand Hotel, and get in the mood for Weekend 2 with music by the Western Senators.
Naturally, German specialties abound, courtesy of Piggyback BBQ, and include handmade elk, German and traditional beer-style bratwursts and brined and smoked pork loin, plus sauerkraut and German potato salad. Beer, courtesy of Great Northern Brewing Company, is also abundant.
Gates open at 5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and noon Saturdays, and close at 11 p.m. nightly.
Admission is $5 per day and free for kids under 12 (with a paying adult). On “Senior’s Day,” Oct. 5, festival goers over 60 are admitted free until 5 p.m. Visit www.whitefishoktoberfest.com.