Record turnout for Oktoberfest at the Oaks

Take a look and see why so many families, from all over outer East Portland – and beyond – left with happy memories of this annual celebration …

Oktoberfest is in full swing, under the massive “festhalle” tent at Oaks Amusement Park.

It started out as a smaller event, begun and operated by the Rheinlander German Restaurant’s Master Chef Horst Mager and his daughter Suzeanne Mager – and that ran for two years almost a quarter century ago at historic Oaks Amusement Park. The venerable (and now nonprofit) park picked up where they left off, and has kept the spirit of Oktoberfest alive, growing it every year since.

This year, the Oaks held Oktoberfest on the weekend of September 23-25, turning the picnic area and an entire parking lot into a Bavarian village with a gigantic “festhalle” tent.

Twinkling lights illuminate at the picnic area turned into a temporary Bavarian village.

While this Oktoberfest may be one of the better-known, and is considered by the park to be one of the best events they host each year – Oaks Park, on the east bank of the Willamette River, has hosted many ethnic-based festivals. So commented its Promotions, Events, and Dance Pavilion Manager Emily McKay.

These youthful members with Leikarringen of Portland demonstrate a traditional German dance, done by hopping over sticks.

Emily McKay, this Oktoberfest’s charming hostess, keeps the event fun and lively for people of all ages.

“It’s true; from our earliest years, many different cultural groups in Portland came up the river and held their events here, holding authentic festivals that celebrate their culture,” McKay told East Portland News while taking a brief break from her hosting duties.

“People from all over the Pacific Northwest come here for the ‘Mid-Summer Scandinavian Festival’; and, a couple weeks ago we also hosted a Middle Eastern celebration,” McKay added.

Both diners and dancers enjoy the entertainment by the world-famous Polkatones show band.

The music of a lively polka band encourages these toddlers, Benjamin Thompson and Avery Deardorff, to try dancing.

What sets this Oktoberfest apart for many others, observed McKay, is that it’s family-oriented.

“The big ‘drinking festivals’ are a good time for adults, but the kids can be at this one with their parents,” McKay said. “Here, youngsters can come in and enjoy our midway attractions, have fun with our special kids’ activities in the ‘Kinderplatz’, dance, and dine on sausage dinners as a family, while the adults quaff an authentic Paulaner beer.”

Closest to the bandstand, John Lee tries his best to win the “Pretzel Toss” contest – with Brie Lee catching the salted baked rings – and he wins!

Flanked by Oaks Amusement Park’s mascot, “Chipper”, and hostess Emily McKay, Kelly Zeck and Don Zeck participate in the “Chicken Dance”.

Folks get out of their seats and participate, when the band invites them to join in the line dance that snakes around the “festhalle”.

Delightful late-summer weather helped encourage record crowds, McKay said. “This year, we hosted about 30,000 visitors over the three days.”

The best part for her, McKay said, “It’s that I’m German; and for one weekend out of the year, I get to celebrate where my people came from with thousands of new friends – many of whom are German – for the day!”

At the Oaks Oktoberfest, everyone, including Nai Lee, doing the Chicken Dance with Oaks Park mascot Chipper, can be “German for a Day”.

Oktoberfest is the last big-event-weekends of the season. But, Oaks Park, now considered the oldest continuously operating amusement park in the United States, will be open next spring, ready to entertain young and old.

On our FRONT PAGE: Aurora Nash “dances” in the arms of Sarah Wehr.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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