Oaks Park Oktoberfest still a family affair

It’s a lot more than beer and bratwursts. Look at all the fun activities they provided for festival-goers this year …

Dressed in her traditional German costume, Oaks Amusement Park’s Promotion Manager and Oktoberfest hostess, Emily MacKay, leads the crowd again this year, doing “The Chicken Dance”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The word “Oktoberfest” conjures up images of a drunken bacchanal in a beer hall, for many folks. But, for eighteen years, the Oaks Park Oktoberfest has maintained its image as a family-friendly event.

Yes, German beer, Zenner’s sausages and schnitzel were indeed plentiful – but so were games, activities, and contests, at their 2009 edition, on September 25 through 27. “It’s important to us that we provide a fun environment for both adults and children,” said Oaks Park’s public affairs person, Emily MacKay.

The famous Polkatones, originally all from Tillamook but now individually living all over the Pacific Northwest, gather together again to play lively dance music at the Oaks’ Oktoberfest.

Four members of the “Tyrolean Dance” group wow the crowd with their acrobatic, fancy-stepping demonstration.

German Village vendor Jackie Imdahl takes a break from selling her hand-made “Scrumptious Suds” soap, in the temporary Oaks Park village square.

OomPah bands and dancers enlivened the two festhallen (festival halls). Between the halls, a German village of crafters displayed both locally-made and Germanic-imported goods and foods.

The most fun for MacKay, she told us, is the food. “What can I say? I’m a German girl! Zenners is offering three varieties this year. One of my favorite foods is the fresh-made pretzels.”

Pausing for a refreshment break, after dancing up a storm in their traditional costumes, Josh and Emily Mclaughlin salute the band by hoisting their steins (actually plastic cups).

By popular vote, Hallie and Kalish are announced as winners of this year’s Chicken Dance contest.

It seems like everyone in the “Grand Festhallen” is on their feet when the Polkatones play “The Chicken Dance” song they originally introduced to the Pacific Northwest.

At the event, MacKay was more than simply a costumed hospitality hostess. She also served as the MC and organizer of the somewhat-wacky competitions: Sausage eating, pretzel toss, condiment art, and the ever-popular Chicken Dance contest.

About 25,000 people are estimated to have visited the temporary German town in the historic Southeast amusement park during the three day event. MacKay reminded, “If you missed it this year, mark the last weekend in September, and join us in 2010.”

It wouldn’t be an Oktoberfest at Oaks Amusement Park without a game of Toss the Pretzel!

Grillmaster Paul Kimbrough, from Western Culinary Institute, cooks up a batch of Zenners fresh sausages.

Indoors and out, folks dine, and drink in the Oktoberfest ambiance.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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