There are so many reasons to celebrate Oktoberfest. There's this beer. And that beer. Oh, and that other beer.
But at the Phoenix Old World Oktoberfest, beer is just one piece of a gigantic German bonanza celebrating Bavarian culture. This celebration will include traditional dancing, elaborate costumes and succulent sausages.
Here are five reasons to find time to get over to Margaret T. Hance Park on Saturday for this authentic cultural celebration.
Germans run the show
Let's be honest. Germans aren't the only people who celebrate Oktoberfest, just as the Irish don't hold exclusive celebratory rights to St. Patrick's Day. But, this particular Oktoberfest event is hosted by the Arizona Center for Germanic Cultures. It's the real deal.
"Most of the American Oktoberfest events center around drinking," said Colleen O'Donnell Pierce, a board member with the Germanic center. "That's not really the crux of the celebration."
There's more to it. This is where you can feel like a German for a day. The Phoenix event is run just as it is in Munich.
"Beer is a very big part of the German culture," O'Donnell Pierce acknowledged. "But it's really about enjoying all the aspects of German culture."
Germans take the stage
Die Echte Waldbaum will again take the stage. They fly in from Germany every year. The band, whose name means "The True Tree of the Forest," plays traditional German music and adds a little Bavarian punch to the festivities.
"A lot of U.S. Oktoberfests have rock bands," O'Donnell Pierce said. "A huge part of the experience is the sing-alongs, the dancing, the polka. It really transports you to a different place."
The lesson here: Practice your polka.
German food is plentiful
Sausage may be the first thing to come to mind when you think about German food. True. The Germans pamper their pigs, which makes for supreme sausages. But there will be so much more at the Old World Oktoberfest.
Grace Lutheran Church is handling all of the food preparation, making each apple strudel and every batch of potato salad by hand. Grill hands will turn frankfurters and brats, someone will cure a mean batch of sauerkraut and there will be plenty of hand-rolled pretzels.
"It's made with a lot of love," O'Donnell Pierce said, noting the church uses the Oktoberfest event as a big fundraiser to bankroll outreach efforts throughout the year.
Event organizers also will roast a few pigs, just as they do in Europe. They will not, however, roast an ox. They'll leave that to the pros in Germany.
German suds will flow
Oktoberfest without beer? Nein! The Phoenix event will have four Warsteiner brews on tap. Never heard of it? That's because it's a high-quality German brew. You'll be able to choose from the seasonal Oktoberfest, the crisp pilsner, the wheat hefeweizen or the dark dunkles. There will be more than one beer tent, O'Donnell Pierce says, so "people usually don't have to wait long."
If beer isn't your thing, the festival will offer a selection of schnapps and Jägermeister.
Germans love a winner
Old World Oktoberfest is a playing field for the not-so-average contests, such as best polka and the best costume. The festival also will award top honors to the person who can blow the best tone on the alp horn (think the Ricola commercial) and the man or woman who can hold a full beer stein at arm's length for the longest. The Old World festival expects about 5,000 people this year, so if you want a chance to win, start training now.