The iconic Oktoberfest is the world’s largest beer festival and it’s probably on a lot of people’s (especially guys’) bucket lists. It runs for sixteen days – from the end of September to the beginning of October – in Munich, Germany in celebration of people, music and crafts (and beer). Timing being everything, and my visit being in August, I instead had the good fortune to experience the Gäubodenvolksfest in Staubing which is the second largest beer festival in Bavaria, Germany. Every year over thousands of visitors come to this little city to partake in this 11-day festival.
Now that I’m stuck at home, specifically in the land of the freezing cold in Canada, the memories of my first volksfest are at the forefront of my brain. If you’d like to bring a little Oktoberfest, or Gäubodenvolksfest, to your home, here are five essential things you need to DIY your own volksfest so that you can enjoy a little German tradition too.
1. Traditional Clothing
Most volksfest’s start off with a parade in celebration of their culture. In Straubing, the parade was about an hour long and consisted of families showing off their trades, groups of people dancing and tons of free candy, pretzels and beer. Although I enjoyed the free food, I fell in love with all of the traditional clothing–even the crowd attended in traditional Lederhosen–there’s just something magical about men in tights. This is a must-have at your Oktoberfest party! Just think about all of the good laughs, great memories and amazing photos you’re going to get out of this.
2. A Party Tent
After the parade we went to a place that could best be described as an amusement park on steroids. There was no fee for entering and they had seven tents set-up that could seat up to 26,500 people. The best part? It didn’t feel crowded at all! The tent was basically a big food court with live music. Even though none of us have that kind of space in our backyard, most of us can set-up an outdoor cabana or canopy. You could also rent a tent from a party rental company – go all out in the spirit of German tradition!
3. Traditional food
What’s a party without food? What’s a German party without sausages? I was in Germany for six days and I can assure you that I had a sausage for breakfast, lunch and dinner by choice! There are so many different German sausages (bratwurst and Weißwürste or “white sausage” for example) but to make it traditional your sausage should be accompanied with sweet mustard, sauerkraut and rye bread or a pretzel. If you’re in the cooking mood, you can also have potato salad (or Kartoffelsalat which is a potato salad with bacon and onion bits) as a side dish. Fun fact: the only time I saw chicken on the menu was at this festival. Chicken was actually considered a carnival food!
4. Good Beer
Scratch that. The BEST beer. Specially brewed beer is crafted for these kind of festivals. I wasn’t a huge fan of beer until I went to Germany. My very first day we went to the city of Regensburg and visited the Spital Brewery (or in German, the Spital Brauerei). After a tour of the brewery, and learning how ale is made, we did a little beer tasting. Beer is made out of wheat, rye, barley, oats and so on. Depending on how much of each starch ingredient is used, the beer could be a pale ale, stout, mild, wheat, lambic or lager beer. Thanks to new technology there are endless hops (flavoured beer) that gives us amazing new tastes like chocolate ale. Let’s just say that the bottles were flowing at the Spital Brewery. I quickly learned that I really enjoy smooth, wheat beer (or Weizenbier/Weißbier beer) but for your volksfest, you should have a variety of German beers available – you might find a new favourite!
5. Fun and Games
Amongst the food tents were rides and booths with games and prizes. If you can rent a Ferris wheel and set it up in your background, then I’d like an invite please! But because most of us can’t, we’ll have to settle for the smaller, but still very fun, booth games. How hard could it be to stack up a few old cans and have friends throw balls at them for a little stuffed animal? Or how about blowing up balloons, sticking them to a wall or fence and then throwing darts at them? These are simple games but it is all part of joining in on the German tradition of volksfests.