Although the original Oktoberfest took place at an 1810 Bavarian wedding celebration for King Louis I and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, the annual El Cajon Oktoberfest has a history of its own with its 50th celebration happening this year.
Hosted by the German American Societies of San Diego club, the El Cajon Oktoberfest will feature live music, German food, vendor and craft booths and a kids zone. However, event Chair Mike Anderson said the real draw is the culture.
“The culture— you almost feel left out if you’re not wearing lederhosen. As our club gets older, a lot of the first generation are gone but people keep the traditions going and wear their trachten, the customary dress. Men wear their lederhosen and women wear dirndls,” Anderson said.
Although there are other festivals, he said, “ the things I think set us apart are the band, the beer and the food,” all of which are German.
The club tries to keep the food as authentic as possible, he said, bringing in pastry from specialty bakeries and purchasing sauerkraut from a German supplier. A German cook oversees the kitchen with traditional fare like ox and sausages served hot.
“We only serve German food and we have ten German beers on tap,” Anderson said.
The band, Die Guggenbach- Buam, travels every year from Baden-Württemberg in Germany and has been playing at the El Cajon Oktoberfest for about 20 years, Anderson said.
“They’ve become kind of like a family; they stay at people’s houses for ten days and they like playing the old music. They’ve adjusted with the times, like the chicken dance is not done in Germany as much anymore but here, there is so much audience participation where everyone gets out on the dance floor,” Anderson said.
After covering the costs of the Mollison Avenue facility, profits from the event all go back into the club’s activities, which support learning and celebrating German culture including a language class, a travel group, and a new soccer club. Where some other Oktoberfest organizers hire help for their events, Anderson said the El Cajon festival relies on about 800 volunteers to pull off the annual celebration.
The El Cajon Oktoberfest runs for two weekends: Sept. 30 through Oct. 2 and Oct. 7-9. Adult tickets are $15 for Fridays and Saturdays, $5 on Sundays and tickets allow access to the entire event. Active duty military, German American Societies club members and guests under age 21 are free.
The German American Societies club is located at 1017 S. Mollison Avenue, El Cajon.