While some Oktoberfests are knockoffs - created by Americans who've never even been to Germany - Andy Grogger's Oktoberfest, in Frisco, is the real thing.
At first, you might notice his strong, hulky body and wide smile - and the lederhosen and black hat he dons when playing with Those Austrian Guys up at Keystone's Der Fondue Chessel. As you chat with him, you're sure: This man isn't from around here.
Born and raised in Austria, he exudes a presence still more European than American. Luckily for us, he invites us into his fun-loving world tonight through Sunday, at Frisco's Oktoberfest.
"I bring my love of the music, food and culture to host the most authentic Oktoberfest west of Munich," he said.
Staged in a 60x120-foot tent on the Peninsula at Frisco Adventure Park, this Oktoberfest features beer from what he considers Germany's finest brewery: Paulaner. Grogger served the brew when he worked at the Kaltenberg Castle Brewhouse (owned by Prince Luitpold of Bavaria) in Vail, and he loves it to this day.
The festival also showcases Grogger's culinary talents; he owns Andy's Kitchen, a catering company, and he'll cook up schnitzel, brats, kielbasa, strudel, soft pretzels and more.
And, of course, there'll be plenty of music elevating the event. The Polkanauts return to Frisco, bringing their heavy-metal-infused polka to the masses. Yep, they play metal with a polka beat and traditional polka songs with a metal twist. Grogger booked them for the younger crowd that Friday night usually draws. Since they "combine their favorite musical genres to put on one heck of a fun time," he said, they'll also play Saturday afternoon.
For people who prefer more traditional oom-pah-pah, Those Austrian Guys stroll in Saturday evening; all the band members hail from Austria and have been whoopin' it up at Der Fondue Chessel for over 20 years.
Thanks to prodding from Those Austrian Guys, the Summit Concert Band started performing traditional music for Oktoberfests (including ones in Denver) eight years ago. They will play throughout the weekend. The nonprofit is also the beneficiary for Grogger's Oktoberfest. This year, the band debuts its version of the most popular song played at Oktoberfest in Munich. If you don't know what it is, you'll have to head to the Adventure Park to find out - and join in, which is what Oktoberfest is all about.
Grogger managed a beer tent in Munich before moving to Summit County, so he knows how to throw a party that engages everyone.
For one thing, he offers Oktoberfest games, such as Liter Stein Holding (hold the stein, filled with beer, with your arm straight for as long as you can; within 3-5 minutes even the strongest biceps begin to quiver), leg wrestling and a nail-driving competition, in which people use a rock hammer to drive a nail into a large stump.
"The whole atmosphere is just a little different than the other Oktoberfests, with the games and the schnapps bar," Grogger said. "It's a little smaller, but it's family oriented. It's not a drunk fest. It's socializing - people getting together, and they start to interact, which is why we have such big tables."