And a’one, and a’two, and a’three … it’s Oktoberfest!

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Central City goes Bavarian

By Patty Unruh

Ja, ja! Central City donned its Alpine hats and lederhosen as it wrapped up a season of street festivals with Oktoberfest September 21. Patrons were entertained with sprightly polka tunes, tasty German sausage and sauerkraut, and of course, beer – although in practical plastic cups rather than ceramic steins.

Visitors enjoyed a day in rare sunshine as they took in the musical stylings of Jim Ehrlich and the Polkamates and The Tom Allen Grengs Polka Band, who entertained with light, rhythmic polkas, waltzes, and folk songs. Happy listeners tapped their toes to such favorites as “Edelweiss,” “The Happy Wanderer,” “The Liechtensteiner Polka,” and “Du, Du, Liegst Mir im Herzen,” (“You, You are Always in my Heart”). The tuba’s hearty “oom pa pa” and the accordion’s bright harmonies brought back memories of Saturday nights around the t.v. with Lawrence Welk and Myron Floren.

Why is it called “Oktoberfest” when it is celebrated in September? A little history will shed light on this conundrum. The first Oktoberfest was celebrated in Munich, Germany in 1810 in honor of Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildberghausen. The festivities began October 12 and lasted for almost a week, ending with a horse race. Everyone had so much fun that the royal couple decided to repeat the celebration every October. The event grew until it was eventually moved forward into September, which allows for better weather conditions – sometimes.

Today, the 16-day festival in Munich to celebrate beer is the largest in the world, with an international flavor as more than six million visitors from all over the world take part every year. Historically, the festival starts on a late September weekend and lasts for three weekends, ending in October. To the locals in Munich, it is not called Oktoberfest, but “die Wiesn” after the colloquial name of the fairgrounds. Seven million liters of beer are consumed during the festival, along with such fare as grilled ham hocks, grilled fish on a stick, sausages, sauerkraut, pretzels, potato dumplings and pancakes, and cheese noodles.

Several vendors offered Central City Oktoberfest participants a tantalizing array of German and other fare. Millie’s Restaurant from the Easy Street Casino did a brisk business with their bratwurst, homemade potato salad, sauerkraut, and award-winning green chili. The folks at Central City’s JKQ BBQ said best sellers were the barbecue platter and the pulled pork sandwiches. Their menu also featured beer brats and kielbasa. The Century Casino kept folks coming with buffalo and elk bratwurst and Italian sausage (for those wanting a variety other than German).

Merchants had fascinating wares to offer guests. Ataraxis Apparel of Lakewood specialized in t-shirts and jewelry that inspired customers to think of their favorite activity. Ataraxis means “the absence of stress or anxiety.”

Amy Wells of A & M Works in Black Hawk displayed her beaded wire, glass, and serving ware bedecked with yellow opal, rose quartz, Baltic amber, and other gemstones. The stones were advertised as having healing qualities. Another specialty was the “tree of life” necklace, which symbolized rebirth and growth.

Vilma Dallas was on hand with “Magic Blossoms” jewelry made of dichroic glass. Dallas explained that the rainbow-hued glass was originally made for military sights in airplanes; artists discovered the glass and began using it for jewelry, which is now its main purpose. The process of making the jewelry is called “slumping;” Dallas carves and shapes the glass on a mold and melts the glass in a kiln. Merchant Susan Ross-Randall of The Missing Link called Dallas her mentor. Ross-Randall offered custom-designed apparel to complement Dallas’ jewelry.

Customers were also drawn to Flo’s Fab Jewelry, with its array of earrings, beaded bracelets, mood rings, purses, and gemstones. Especially unique was the display of selenite wands, which Flo said could be used for healing.

Photographer Judy Deist of Parker displayed breathtaking images with Western themes, such as galloping horses, still life photos of custom boots, and a touching portrait of a cowboy brooding over an old book. Deist also offered photos of the ocean and scenes from Italy.

Cindy Yarmowich and Ann Brideau, aka “The Queens of Condiments,” sold their specialty mustards, sauces, pickled foods, and soft pretzels through their business, Colorado Mountain Madness of Breckenridge.

Bo Reynolds and Jessie DiMercurio of radio station KOOL-105 gave patrons the opportunity to spin the wheel of fortune for a chance to win prizes, such as KOOL-105 t-shirts and passes to the new movie “Rush.”

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