It’s that time again. October is coming, which means that the 51st Annual Oktoberfest is in full swing at the Big Bear Convention Center. The Oktoberfest festivities started on September 11th and will run through November 7th this year. Beer, Bratwurst, beer, Polka Dancing, beer, music, beer, fun and more beer….the Big Bear Oktoberfest has it all and has become one of the largest and most authentic on the West Coast.
Where did Oktoberfest come from? The Oktoberfest festival started in 1810 in Muich, Germany. It originated as a celebration of a royal wedding that had taken place. The festival lasted 5 days ending with a horse race. The following year, the horse race again took place, but this time they added food and drink booths. The horse race took place each year and eventually the booths turned into large wooden beer halls filled with kegs. As the years went on floats, costumes and dancing became a mainstay at what was now called “Oktoberfest.” This festival is a beloved celebration that takes place in Germany each year, drawing tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world.
How did Oktoberfest end up in Big Bear? Let’s take a journey back to 1969 when two German immigrants with their children in tow, made their way to Big Bear from New York City. Hans & Erika Bandows scraped together all of the money they had and purchased the Wawona Lodge (today Wolf Creek Lodge). As a way of syaing thank you to all of their new clients and friends, the Bandows decided to hold an Oktoberfest, much like the one in their homeland. They cooked authentic German food, served German beer and hired a polka band and a made a dancefloor. This mini “Oktoberfest” was such a hit, they knew they had to make it a tradition and 51 years later you will still see the Bandows and their two daughters overseeing and enjoying the festivities. Thousands of people make their way up to Big Bear each fall to partake in one of Big Bear’s most beloved traditions. We’ll see you there! Zicke Zacka, Zicke Zacka, Hoy, Hoy, Hoy!