There probably will be more foamy steins held aloft in Munich than in Southern California to celebrate Oktoberfest, but the Southland will certainly be no stranger to the festival's exuberant spirit.
Jawohl! It's September, and that's the month for those of a Bavarian turn of mind to begin a season of beer and bratwurst, polkas and parties.
Of the Oktoberfests that will be held across Southern California, perhaps the earliest of the early birds is the one sponsored by the Big Bear Chamber of Commerce; that celebration begins Saturday.
All the hoopla is to mark the anniversary of the wedding of Bavaria's Crown Prince (later King) Ludwig and Princess Therese, who tied the royal knot 177 years ago.
The festival is folksy, lighthearted--what Germans call Gemutlichkeit. But you don't have to be able to pronounce that word to have fun at Oktoberfest: In any language, it's a whopper of a party.
Here is a sampling of festivities sponsored by communities, clubs and restaurants:
Alpine Village, 833 W. Torrance Blvd., Torrance, (213) 327-4384. Starts Sept. 12 and continues on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 1. Hours: Fridays and Saturdays, 6 p.m. to midnight; Sundays, noon to 9 p.m. Admission: Fridays and Saturdays, $5; Sundays, $4. Ages 20 and under are admitted only on Sundays; those 12 to 18 years get a 50% discount, and those 11 and under are admitted free. In the first four weekends, you can dance to a 15-piece brass band from Austria; later, to a 13-piece ensemble from Bavaria. If you're good at sawing, beer-mug carrying or pretzel eating, join the contests. There will be yodeling competitions whenever enough people can be persuaded to sound off.
Bavarian Inn, 324 Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel, (213) 283-4252. Starts Oct. 3 and runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 31. Hours: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Dinner prices vary. Following the traditions of Munich, there will be costumed waiters and contests. Peppy polkas and Old World waltzes will abound, and folk dancers will perform. To really get in the swing, wear a costume.
Big Bear Chamber of Commerce Oktoberfest, Big Bear Convention Center, Big Bear Boulevard and Division Drive, (714) 866-4607. Weekends from Saturday through Nov. 1. Hours: Saturdays, noon to midnight; Sundays, noon to 7 p.m. Admission, $3; children 9 and under, free. Contests include yodeling and log sawing. On weekends from Sept. 12 through Oct. 10, there will be "Queen of the Oktoberfest" contests in which the entrants who can carry the most steins across the dance floor win cash and crowns. (The record is 21 steins, at five pounds each.) The Polka Tots, a children's dance group, will perform each weekend, and on Saturdays and Sundays from Oct. 17 to Nov. 1 there will be oompahpahing by a 20-piece band from Big Bear's sister city, Abtenau, Austria.
Garden Grove Symphony Guild Oktoberfest, 10861 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 636-4203, (714) 534-7271. Sept. 19, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. The $20 admission includes dinner and door prizes. No-host bar. Guests are urged to come in costume. Sponsored by the Symphony Guild, the Bavarian-style fund-raising evening will include dancing to the music of the Rheinlanders, plus a meal with delicacies such as knackwurst, stuffed cabbage, sauerkraut and hot German potato salad. An emcee will give the history of Munich's fabled Oktoberfest, and dance studio owner Dan Collins will demonstrate folk dances. German-American Club of Santa Monica, 1843 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 450-6141, (213) 450-4501. On two Sundays, Oct. 4 and Oct. 18, 3 p.m. to midnight. Admission $2 for non-members; members free. The club is one of Southern California's oldest German-American groups. Among the homemade food on sale will be pea soup, pig's knuckles and strudel. Other attractions: a dance band, folk singing, wood-sawing contests and a game booth for children.
Hofbrau Haus, 645 West 15th St., Los Angeles, (213) 747-8191. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Sept. 18 through Oct. 31. Hours: Fridays and Saturdays from 8 p.m.; Sundays from 6 p.m. Dinner prices vary. Waitresses dressed in dirndls will serve Bavarian specialties. Music by the Hofbrau Orchestra, along with free waltz and polka lessons and Bavarian dances performed by local groups.
Hoppe's Old Heidelberg Restaurant, 13726 Oxnard St., Van Nuys, (818) 997-9396. Daily from Sept. 25 to Oct. 25. Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 4 p.m. to midnight; Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to midnight. Dinner prices vary. Two brass bands, a roving accordion player, dance contests and group singing. Families welcome.