Oktoberfest brews up a full-bodied walk
FRISCO – In Europe, people take their Volksmarch seriously.Entire villages rally around the events, participating in the 5-, 10-, 15- or even 56-kilometer walks. But the walks are only the beginning. Afterward, villagers celebrate with beer drinking, brat eating and socialization. Each event draws 2,000-3,000 people, said Radek Lopusnik, a Czechoslovakian who moved to Boulder two years ago.Lopusnik participated in his first Volksmarch in Germany four years ago. When he moved to Boulder, he looked up the Rocky Mountain Wanderers, one of the approximately 350 Volksmarch clubs in the United States. The Volksmarch he did at his first Oktoberfest in Frisco reminded him of the traditional Volksmarches in Europe.You see, there are “Americanized” Volksmarches, where people walk a few miles for exercise and a bit of socialization, then go home. Then there are traditional Volksmarches, where people walk, talk, eat, drink and have a good time. Frisco’s fits into the latter category. The town and the chamber of commerce organized its first Oktoberfest celebration in 2002 around the Rocky Mountain Wanderers’ Frisco Volksmarch, which began four years ago. The Wanderers embraced it immediately – after the approximately 170 club members finish the 5-, 10- or 15-kilometer trail past Rainbow Lake, they can oompah it up with German music, cuisine and, of course, beer.
The Volksmarch in Frisco is just one of the weekly walks the Wanderers organize. Many members walk every weekend and earn pins, patches and other awards as they accrue kilometers. Walkers earn awards for participating in 10 events and 30 events, as well as gaining recognition for the 200-, 500- and 1,000-kilometer mark. “I don’t have very many awards – I only have 425 events and about 4,000 kilometers,” said Claudia Johnston at last year’s Oktoberfest. Her husband, Dave, founded the Wanderers in 1976. She compares herself to people like Lopusnik, who completed a 100-kilometer Volksmarch in Belgium last year. (Yes, that’s about 62 miles. Walkers had 24 hours to complete the walk, and Lopusnik finished it in 19 hours, though at the end the 30-year-old said he was “almost dead.”)”We just love to walk,” said Martha Minahan, who has been walking since 1992. “We have fast walkers and slow walkers. It’s noncompetitive. It is what you need it to be. You can find something for almost anybody in this club – as long as you like to walk.”The awards often spur beginners to log kilometers, but eventually, most people stop accumulating pins, patches and certificates for every walk – because what’s a Volksmarcher to do with so much recognition? After getting several kilometers under their belt so to speak, the majority of club members simply stamp a special record book (though, that eventually leads to – you guessed it – more prizes).Volksmarchers also stay motivated with other goals such as walking in every state and walking the Lewis and Clark Trail or the Civil War sites, lighthouses or state capitals. Johnston is working on walking in all 50 states.
“Volksmarch” means the “sport of the people.” It originated in southern Germany during the early 1960s as a competitive running event, but the program soon lost its appeal to the general public. Clubs changed the event to noncompetitive walks, and in 1968, West Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Austria formed a nonprofit sports organization, the International Federation of Popular Sports, to promote Volksmarches (and other Volkssports including bicycling, swimming, cross country skiing and snowshoeing) throughout the world. Today, 27 nations have Volksmarch clubs.DetailsSaturday’s third annual Oktoberfest starts at 11 a.m. with five breweries – Backcountry Brewery, Pug Ryan’s, Dillon Dam Brewery, Breckenridge Brewery and Great Northern Tavern – pouring their Oktoberfest brews. Drink tickets are $4 for beer, schnapps or German wine. Commemorative beer steins are $15 and include one beer.This year brings new events: team keg rolling, the pretzel toss and the beer stein relay. All the games are free, and winners get prizes. Kids can enjoy inflatable games, face painting and the lucky frog pond.
The Summit Concert Band jump starts the festival with German music from 11 a.m. to noon.Then Peter Krainz and his band, Those Austrian Guys, roll out a barrel of fun at noon at the gazebo in the Frisco Historic Park. Die Volkstanzgruppe, a German dance group, encourage the audience to join in on simple Bavarian dance steps. Kim and Oz, local German dancers, bring in a world of humor and coax the crowd to polka with them.Frisco’s restaurants serve plenty of brats, knockwurst, pretzels, strudels and other German fare.Registration for the 5-, 10- and 15-kilometer Volksmarches begins at 9 a.m. at the Schoolhouse Museum in the Frisco Historic Park. Registration is free.
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