Oktoberfest is in full swing on the streets of Mt. Angel through this weekend.
The noise and excitement are infectious throughout the town. The streets are closed to cars and instead filled with food and vendor stands and tents. Individuals and families wander through, with children and performers dressed in their best Bavarian costumes.
For the first time, I got the opportunity to go this year. As a first-timer to the festival, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I learned plenty just from spending a few joyous hours.
Most events at Oktoberfest are free, including the kid-focused Kindergarten that includes a petting zoo, pony rides, hay maze, face painting, train rides, trampolines and a giant slide. There is a cover charge for individuals age 21 and older for access to the three largest venues: the Biergarten, Weingarten and Alpinegarten.
Most activities begin at 11 a.m., although the Saturday car show kicks off at 9 a.m., and continue past midnight Friday and Saturday p.m. and until 6 p.m. Sunday. Many of the venues do begin to exclude anyone under age 21 after about 9 p.m.
Here are some tips and considerations for your trip out to Mt. Angel and how best to enjoy Oktoberfest, whether you’re also a first-timer or a seasoned visitor.
To consider before your visit
Be conscious of the weather. In years past, the weather was sometimes rainy. This year, the forecast for the weekend is beautiful but blisteringly sunny. I recommend wearing a hat and sunglasses plus having a parasol and handheld fan. The lines can get long and there isn’t much shade. The weather is fitting as the last official summer weekend, but that also requires plenty of sunscreen. Also, I recommend good walking shoes.
Dress up to get into the festival spirit. I do not own any Bavarian costumes, but there is a shop and vendor where you can find clothes to get into the Oktoberfest spirit. If that is a bit much, try a flower crown. They’re an easy addition to outfits, and easily repurposable for other events. Many are handmade by the sellers and are mostly of sturdy quality. If flowers are not your aesthetic, there are variations with ivy and branches.
Cash over credit card. All of the food vendors are local organizations raising funds for nonprofits, so many don’t have a POS system that accepts credit cards. Some of the food stands that do accept both cash and cards have separate lines for folks purchasing with cash, which can also buy you time in lines. There are ATMs on-site, but it’s easier to bring it than wait in the ATM line.
Is a pass into the various venues worth it? It depends on your visit, but I would say yes. Alcohol is almost exclusively served within the venues, and there are many tables under tents or in shade. Being able to step into shade will help with avoiding heat exhaustion from walking around. Additionally, finding open tables not in direct sun streetside is nearly impossible – there are just not that many. Tickets are $20 Friday or Saturday, $15 Sunday or $50 for an all-festival pass.
To drive, get a ride or shuttle? This year, the festival added a shuttle people can take Friday or Saturday up or down to Mt. Angel. The North (green) shuttle will stop in Portland and then Woodburn before arriving in Mt. Angel. South (yellow) shuttle will start in Salem, then go to Silverton before getting to Mt. Angel. Loading and unloading will be in front of Mt. Angel’s Biergarten, 500 Wilco Hwy NE. Tickets are available for purchase on both days, with fare increasing by $5 on the day of the shuttle ride.
- Portland: Zidell Yards, 3030 S. Moody, $15
- Woodburn: Hwy 214 Park and Ride (by Denny’s), $5
- Silverton: Anytime Fitness, 118 Brown St., Silverton), $5
- Salem: State Fairgrounds (Jackman Long Bldg), $12
There is also ample parking, albeit the roads to Mt. Angel are small and it can be a bit of a drive to get there. The option for taxis is also available, but carpool is the next best option if you can find others to join.
Activities to look forward to
Musical performances galore. Despite having seen videos of the polka and other traditional Bavarian-style musicians, seeing it in person was an entirely different experience. The musicians are playful with high energy, and the music is roaring whether you’re right by the stage or listening from outside the venue. If you want the most out of watching these acts, purchase a pass into the venues. If you miss a group inside one venue, you can probably catch them in a different venue at another part of the day. If you’ve never listened to polka, this is a perfect chance to see some talent you wouldn’t otherwise get to see. The bigger out-of-town acts will be inside the larger venues, while volunteer or smaller local groups are on the roster of the smaller venues.
Food vendors galore. As mentioned, all the proceeds toward food from the official vendors of the event go towards the stand-designated nonprofit. The options include traditional Bavarian foods like bratwurst, cabbage rolls and pretzels plus traditional American fair food including deep-fried oreos, doughboys, soft serve ice cream, hamburgers, corndogs and elote. I recommend ice cream from the Oregon Dairy Women (yes, even in that long line!), a barbecue chicken platter from the Knights of Columbus Gervais and a loaded bratwurst from the Mt. Angel Sausage Company.
Enjoying the venues. Of the various Venues, most of them have a roster of spirited performances for their stages. If you’re looking for more raucous fun, check out the Biergarten, Alpinegarten and Weingarten. The stages are larger and next to them is a dance floor where you can dance casually or watch traditional dancing. For a calmer environment, stop by the Hopfengarten, Prostgarten and Engelgarten. The spaces are smaller, with performers sitting or standing at ground level so they feel more intimate. All beers are 8 tokens ($8) and each venue has a selection of beers. Tokens are purchasable at stands next to the bars inside the venues, as no money exchanges hands between bartender and customer. If you’re not a fan of beer, most of the bars have a wine list and a couple of ciders or seltzers.
Vendors with unique wares. Many of Oktoberfest’s vendors are not the conventional artisans that frequent the local farmers markets. Many of these vendors only come out to multi-day festivals and bring unconventional goods including bags made out of old film, macramé, handmade décor/homewares and specialty botanical products. Some of them are not local to the Salem area, making their presence more rare.
Attending the Oktoberfest was so much fun and I hope you’ll be able to get the opportunity to make your own memories there as well.
Em Chan covers food and dining at the Statesman Journal. You can reach her firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @catchuptoemily.
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