By Andrea Ouyang
The prelude to Oktoberfest was a torrential downpour that swept the streets in small rivers. After the initial deluge, however, the somewhat soaked participants began to trickle into the AEPi House on 395 Crown Street after 5pm on Friday evening, October 9, when the celebration started.
Despite the initially rocky start, which included police showing up in response to concerns about underage drinking, a line soon formed as people on the guest list waited for wristbands granting them entrance. The Yale Oktoberfest, an annual celebration organized by the Yale German Society and the Yale European Undergraduates, took place in the backyard under a large blue tent, with German-American pop music blaring in the background from a window. An estimated 600 attendees stopped by over the course of the night to enjoy food, drink, culture and conversation. Some wore dirndls or lederhosen, traditional garb often associated with Bavaria, a region in southeast Germany.
The Munich Oktoberfest, after which the Yale version of the event is modeled, had an attendance of 5.9 million this year, as the world’s largest beer festival and traveling funfair. Held in Munich, Bavaria, Oktoberfest celebrations begin in September and last sixteen days, until the first Sunday in October. It originated in 1810, when Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, and has been held almost every year since. Attractions may vary, but typically feature Ferris wheels, carnival rides, and enormous “beer tents,” sponsored by Munich beer breweries.
“Oktoberfest is what people associate with German culture – it’s very cultured,” said Philip Arndt, a senior who is from Munich. Arndt, former president of the Yale German Society, was a freshman during Yale Oktoberfest’s inception in 2012, and helped organize this year’s event as well.
Like its Munich counterpart, the Yale Oktoberfest sported food and drink as main attractions.
“Oktoberfest is about drinking and eating,” said Arndt, and the various traditionally German foods offered at the event reflected the tradition. A grill was started for a pot of bratwurst, and large soft pretzels, imported from a New York City bakery, were passed around to attendees. The food, for many, represented a large incentive for going to Oktoberfest.
“I saw that they had a variety of native German foods, and I was really excited to eat the pretzels, so I decided to come,” said freshman Merrick Black.
In addition to beer purchased locally, there was beer imported from Munich, the kind that would have been served at the Munich Oktoberfest, and many attendees sported large plastic mugs modeled after the stein, or traditional beer mug. For non-drinkers or underage students, other options such as soft drinks, orange lemonade and apple cider were available.
More than anything else, the Yale Oktoberfest was an opportunity for people to gather, chat with friends, and celebrate German culture. As the evening grew dark, friends and strangers met and mingled, formed and re-formed groups under the blue tent. A banner hung on the outside of the building read simply, “Ein Prosit.” German for “a toast,” Ein Prosit is also the title of a song frequently played at Oktoberfests. Loosely translated, the lyrics are “a toast, a toast, to cheer and good times.” The Yale Oktoberfest, true to form, embodied that spirit.
Andrea Ouyang is a freshman in Davenport College. Contact her at email@example.com.