Although it may not measure up to the real Theresienwiese in Munich, South Florida's very own Oktoberfest does happen to be one of the largest of its kind in the United States.
More than 25,000 souls pack the grounds of the American German Club of the Palm Beaches each October to drink lots of outstanding beer, eat great food, and soak up some Bavarian culture. And you don't even have to be of German descent or able to correctly pronounce Danke schön to join in. As long as you know Germany is located somewhere in Europe, you'll be fine.
The club is one of the few to feature authentic German bands that actually fly across the Atlantic to get here. Members of two bands from Ruhpolding, Germany, dressed in the traditional outfit of high socks, white shirt, and lederhosen, play favorite folk tunes. Local talents include performances by the Ukrainian Dancers of Miami and the Edelweiss Children's Schuhplattlers of Miami. Arts, crafts, and souvenirs for sale and a full-fledged carnival setup with a Ferris wheel and other rides round out the entertainment.
American German Club, 5111 Lantana Rd., Lake Worth
Will be held on two weekends, October 11-13 and 18-20. Hours are 5 p.m. to midnight Fridays, noon to midnight Saturdays, and noon to 10 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $7 for adults, free for children younger than age 12. Call 561-967-6464.
Organizers do a nice job of sprucing up the place -- the kiosks look like Bavarian mountain inns, and the festhaus' interiors give you the medieval heebie-jeebies -- and if it weren't for the occasional golf-cart sighting, the illusion would be complete.
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The Oktoberfest tradition began with the wedding of Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Austria on October 12, 1810, in Munich. The celebration included a large public horse race to allow the Bavarian folk to participate in the event. The beer-laden bacchanal was so successful, it has been repeated virtually every year since, although in Germany, the festival takes place in late September to avoid a unique phenomenon known as "beer freeze." But we can enjoy our schnitzels and sauerkraut and celebrate Oktoberfest in true Florida style: under the warm October sun.