Oktoberfest finishes with a flurry in New Ulm

NEW ULM – The sun shined brightly Saturday afternoon as a cool breeze hinted at a coming change of seasons, as the sound of polka music and smell of sauerkraut cut the fall air downtown and at Schell’s Oktoberfest.

“It made a world of difference when the sun came out,” said New Ulm Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitor’s Bureau Manager Terry Sveine.

“The best thing about having Oktoberfest downtown, at the Holiday Inn and Schell’s Brewery is it’s a collective thing. The pie isn’t being cut into smaller pieces for everyone. We just baked a bigger pie by drawing more people to town.”

The Wendinger Band followed the Marv Nissel Band on Center Street Saturday afternoon. A crowd of many ages ate, drank, danced, listened, tossed rings, rode a horse-drawn trolly and took part in other family activities including a petting zoo.

Dancing couples took to the street when the Wendinger Band played the “Anna Lisa Polka.” Another highlight was nine-year-old New Ulmite Thomas Schwartz’ “Red Raven Polka” solo.

Polka music and dancing and making merry poured from downtown establishments as late as 12:30 a.m. Sunday.

Some people ventured to Schell’s Oktoberfest which featured music, food, drink from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., then came downtown for another dose of festivities.

“I haven’t seen huge pretzels like the ones women were selling at Schell’s since I was in Munich (Octoberfest),” said Karen Stadick. “It was almost like Bockfest all over again with a younger crowd that was very lively. Many people were from out-of-town and quite friendly.”

August Schell Brewery Special Project Coordinator Jody Marti said it was a wonderful day Saturday with the Schell’s Hobo Band and Alpensterne providing music.

“We easily doubled last year’s crowd. We don’t have official crowd numbers yet, but it had to be at least a couple thousand,” Marti said. “We had wonderful music and volunteers, about 70 people plus our regular staff. Our gift shop and tour guides ran pretty hard. Brewery tours sold out. We ran shuttles to help people in an out of the brewery.”

Marti said Schell’s imported bavarian giant pretzels measuring about 12 inches across, besides offering the traditional German food and drink.

She said the number of Stammtisch (tables reserved for regular customers) grew from a dozen last year to 30 this year.

“We’re trying to create a Munich-like Oktoberfest with German litre (33.8-ounce steins) served by personal, German-dressed waiters reserved for each Stammtisch table,” Marti said. “We call it mini-Munich.”

Artists were in and around the Kiesling House near Third North and Minnesota. Mankato author, illustrator and artist J.P. Mackey said he was impressed how the Grand Center for the Arts and Humanities allowed him to set up in Kiesling Park as he wanted to.

“It’s a really nice building they’ve done a lot of work on. I’m expecting more great things coming from them,” Mackey said.

Other Kiesling Park artists included Mary Figg, a retired middle school art teacher from Eden Prairie who displayed dozens of personalized etchings.

“It’s my first time in New Ulm,” Figg said. “I heard all about Oktoberfest here and just had to come. All the friendly people here didn’t disappoint me.”

A petting zoo on the other side of Third North Street included a camel, alpaca, silver fox and other living, breathing attractions.

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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