Wander Minnesota: Oktoberfest

(But before we get to Oktoberfest, heads up: I'm one of a panel of judges for a cook-off at the River Falls Bacon Bash this Sunday—stop by and say hello! It's bacon—you know you want to.)

If it's nearly mid-September, then it's nearly time for Oktoberfests to start popping up. Part homage to the Germanic immigrants in Minnesota's past and part homage to autumn, it's not hard to get behind such a jolly event.

The granddaddy of all Oktoberfest celebrations is in New Ulm, Oct. 3-4 and 10-11. Schell's Brewery and Morgan Creek Vineyards will be on hand to celebrate, along with numerous live bands (bring your polka shoes!), copious amounts of food (German and otherwise), horse-drawn trolley rides, and tours of local historic sites.
Minneapolis starts the season off with its Oktoberfest taking place this weekend, Sept. 12-14. Keg bowling, live music, bratwurst-eating and stein-hoisting contests combined with live music, dancing and food.

St. Paul has a smaller-scale Oktoberfest on Sept. 20, at the Klub Haus. There will be plenty of live music, food, kids' activities, a bed race—and a Dachshund race.

The Minnesota State Fairgrounds will have barely recovered from the Fair before Oktoberfest arrives Oct. 3-4. Food and beer, of course, and music and games, as well as the opportunity to stock up on German clothing.

The fine, bawdy folks at the Renaissance Festival couldn't be expected to ignore the season. They'll have Oktoberfest events Sept. 20-21, with a new Bavarian village, craft homebrew competition, German music and dancing, and all kinds of competitions: Dachshund races, keg toss, stein holding, best beard, and sauerkraut eating.

Duluth kicks off its annual Oktoberfest Sept. 19-20. The state's pre-eminent polka group, the Chmielewski Funtime Band, will perform, food will be served, there will be beer pong, and Fitger's hosts a team boot chug at midnight on Friday.

Minneapolis's long-time German stalwart, the Black Forest Inn, begins a very robust calendar of events on Sept. 26, with festivities concluding with the traditional "Drain the Keg Night" on Oct. 4. In between, there will be music, lots of food, beer, movies, and even a tie-the-knot night.

Stillwater gets its Oktoberfest on at Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter the weekends of Sept. 12-14 and 19-21. Friday and Saturday are strictly for the 21-and-older crowd, but Sundays are family days, with activities like face painting and balloon Twister.

What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.