Lucky Megan Dobransky! Our Chow Bella contributor managed to make it to two Okoberfest celebrations -- in both Munich and Tempe. She's here to compare and contrast.
Oktoberfest has been a beer drinker's mecca for centuries. The name alone conjures up images of massive beers so heavy you need two hands to drink, girls in reveling dresses hauling those hefty beers by the armful and lots of polka music.
I'm here to say it's all true, my friends. Oktoberfest in Munich is all you've imagined it to be. And yet, we have an Oktoberfest (well, more than one, but I'm here to discuss the Tempe celebration) right in our backyards every year.
What are the differences? Let's take a look.
One of the biggest differences between Tempe Oktoberfest and Munich Oktoberfest is the tents. In Munich, 14 tents line the grounds, each with a separate theme and menu. Most big German beer makers, Paulaner, Löwenbräu, Spaten and Hofbräu, have a specific tent to serve up liter glasses of their brew.
The tents aren't really tents either. Tempe Oktoberfest has tents, portable, temporary and plastic; Munich has theatrical stages, some of which stay year-round.
The Hippodrom isn't even considered a "big tent," but it can hold more than 3,000 revelers ready to climb atop their tables and join the current drinking song being played by the tent band.
On the other hand, with the theme of "Gemuetlichkeit" or relaxation and adorn with hops banners and authentic Bavarian touches, Winzerer Fähndl is a big tent, serving over 8,000 people inside and almost 2,500 outside.
If you plan ahead enough to make a reservation, you can take part in the rowdier tent atmosphere. If not, you can hang out outside in the beer garden. Every tent has one. These spots are first come first serve and can mean squishing in with strangers at a picnic table.
Tempe is like a super scaled-down version of these beer gardens. Nothing really like the big tents exists at Tempe Oktoberfest, although it's not for lack of trying. It's just different.
In Munich, roving bands fill the grounds with traditional Bavarian sounds. Each tent also has a revolving line-up that keeps everyone singing and dancing well into the evening. Seldom are there actual German-style bands at Tempe Oktoberfest, save for the Das Aubachtal Sextett, who are "German rock stars." Most bands were 70's and 80's cover bands; lots of Bon Jovi and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Loads of carnival rides and games are sprinkled throughout the Munich grounds. While drinking copious amounts of beer and getting on something called "The Shocker" doesn't seem like the best idea, plenty of people took part. It's all part of the fun.
Tempe is no different on that front, except there's also a sweet water park.
Surprisingly, most of the Munich Oktoberfest patrons are Germans, not tourists. According to German Food Guide, each year the festival attracts over six million people and 72% are locals.
Even more surprisingly, a considerable portion of them wear traditional Bavarian costume - lederhosen and dirndls, Lebkuchenherzen cookie necklaces and haferl shoes.
The beer is another big difference. Not only does the Munich Oktoberfest serve up much larger portions, but it all comes in giant glass mugs -- and variety is key. You can go from tent to tent or beer garden to beer garden to get any version of German beer you like. In Tempe, there's a limited amount of German beer, none of which I recognized from the Munich Oktoberfest, although these beers may have been served in the smaller tents. And yeah, plastic cups.
Also, in Munich, no IDs were required. There were no annoying paper bracelets or tickets.
Ah, the smell of steckerlfisch, roasted fish on sticks. Actually, it's not terrible, and most of the food at Munich Oktoberfest was delicious, drunkenness aside.
Almost half a million servings of the rotisserie chicken, called hendl, are sold each year.
While most everyone will think of sausage when it comes to German Oktoberfest, it wasn't actually that prevalent. Still almost 120,000 pairs are sold each year.
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Let's not forget the pretzels the size of your head. For the record, SuperPretzels are not the same.
While the Tempe food doesn't quite measure up and there are no hot dogs at Munich Oktoberfest like there are in Tempe, it's still food and it definitely serve its purpose.
All and all, one can harp on the differences. The lack of elaborately themed tents, glass mugs, traditional bands and general German-ness, but basically Oktoberfest -- no matter where it is -- is one big party. So, just grab a beer, buy a brat and enjoy the ride, wherever you are.