Authentic Frisco Oktoberfest offers echoes of Munich
It may only be early September, but the first Oktoberfest of the season hits Frisco this weekend, starting with a 6:30 performance tonight by the Polkanauts, the Denver-based death-metal polka band. Now in its third year and expanding quickly, Oktoberfest Frisco will be held in the field behind the Nordic Center at the Frisco Adventure Park under a 60′ x 120′ tent – the biggest of all Colorado Oktoberfest tents, organizers said – which means beers, brats and lederhosen rain or shine for Labor Day weekend. As to why hold Oktoberfest in September, Summit Concert Band president Lisa Knobel said simply: “Will it be snowing in September? Not likely. Is there anybody here in October? Not likely.”The Polkanauts play all three nights, “bringing polka fear and destruction to the masses,” including “traditional polkas with a metal influence” and “metal music with a polka beat.” A more traditional Oktoberfest band, Those Austrian Guys, performs at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, “leading the dancing, singing and toasting” with polka, schottische, waltz, a chicken dance or two and perhaps the hokey pokey.”The Summit Concert Band opens both days, playing their Oktoberfest repertoire twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday.The Summit Concert Band came on board last year as the nonprofit partner with Andy’s Kitchen, purveyor of Austrian food such as brats, schnitzel and knodel, to help run Frisco Oktoberfest. The band consists of 25-30 local and visiting musicians from Summit and surrounding counties. Although they did not always play Oktoberfest music, several years ago Those Austrian Guys convinced band member Patrick Fagan to pick up some Oktoberfest tunes. “A tradition in Europe’s Oktoberfest is to have a community oompah band playing,” Knobel said, “so (the band) said ‘why not?'” Their first Oktoberfest was Breckenridge, followed by Frisco and Denver.
Oktoberfest Frisco boasts several big improvements this year. In addition to the huge tent, the festival’s hours now extend until 10 p.m. each night; there is a new VIP biergarten, and increased involvement by sponsor Paulaner includes both brews and tables and dcor straight from Germany. It’s enough to make organizer Andy Grogger, owner of Andy’s Kitchen, feel like’s he’s back in Munich – which is, after all, the city from which the original Oktoberfests hails. In fact, after spending his childhood in Austria, Grogger moved to Munich, where he not only learned to sculpt ice but also managed one of the beer tents at the city’s legendary Oktoberfest celebration. When he came to Summit County from Europe he brought several Oktoberfest traditions with him that now help to make Frisco what Grogger called “the most authentic Oktoberfest west of Munich.” Among the more “extreme” traditions to be featured are liter stein holding, the goal of which is to hold a beer-filled glass stein in an outstretched arm for longer than all of your opponents, and about which the website cautions, “Don’t let your elbow break.” Others include leg wrestling, where two opponents lie on a mat with their feet at each other’s heads, lock inner knees and attempt to roll each other over, and the “much harder than it appears” nail driving, where participants take turns driving their nail into a log with a rock hammer, amateurs using the head end and experts using the pick end. The much mellower tradition of schunkle involves sitting down with your friends, locking arms and swaying in time with the music. This weekend’s event benefits the Summit Concert Band, which will not only provide polkas, marches and waltzes but also service in ticket sales and beer pouring along with other community volunteers. Organizers ask that you carpool or take advantage of the shuttle service, which stops behind the Information Center at 3rd and Main Street in Frisco as well as the Transfer Station behind Safeway.
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