There is often confusion between the Oktoberfest and other German festivals because they typically embrace the German tradition of drinking beer. However, many of these festivals have a very different story than the Oktoberfest and surprisingly little to do with beer.
Michigan’s Little Bavaria, Frankenmuth, is true to its roots with a year-long celebration of beer and the town’s heritage. They do host an amazing Oktoberfest (September 17-20, 2015) and in 1996, Frankenmuth’s Oktoberfest was declared the first Oktoberfest outside of Munich to operate with the blessing of the original Oktoberfest in Munich. With Frankenmuth’s unique German heritage and culture, the Frankenmuth Oktoberfest strives to preserve the sights and sounds of the Munich Oktoberfest.
The Bavarian Festival in Frankenmuth celebrates something much different. It began as a grand-opening celebration when, in 1959, the Bavarian Inn Restaurant was remodeled to celebrate the heritage of its town’s people. Much of town began to follow suit. Throughout the years, things were added such as a Bavarian Princess Court to represent the community at neighboring festivals. And this year’s festival will include a German Car Show. The festival continues to be a local celebration of the community’s roots and offers some unique ceremonies and traditions that are common in the spring or early summer.
As the oldest German festival in Michigan, it is one of the rare places you can watch a traditional Maibaum (Maypole) Celebration whereas the organizers spend hours selecting just the right tree to use and then host a ceremony where all guests can watch them erect the tree which becomes the center of many of the festivities. The Maibaum dancers perform with beautiful ribbons around the pole, in traditional fashion, to celebrate and greet the summer in their beautiful Dirndls. The event is truly a family affair with many community events to celebrate Frankenmuth’s Bavarian heritage. And you don’t have to be from Frankenmuth to enjoy and celebrate with them. Nearly 100,000 people often line the Bavarian Festival Parade Route which caps off the festivities on Sunday. The children’s parade and amusements remind us this is an event for the young and young at heart. With community groups serving German food and pretzels being served all weekend long, it is truly a Bavarian celebration.
And of course, even though it isn’t just about the beer, it wouldn’t be a Bavarian celebration without beer and polka so they have that too!