Oktoberfest in America's Little Switzerland
Gruezi (hello)! Oktoberfest is a huge fall festival in New Glarus, WI, the very small town where I live. New Glarus has a population of about 1800 people. I believe Oktoberfest brings just about that many people to town for the weekend, at least it seems that way. It is held the last weekend of September every year and is a three day festival. The festival is traditional to Germany and Switzerland and celebrates the end of the harvest season.
New Glarus was founded by citizens of Glarus, Switzerland in the mid-1800's. They chose this location because the rolling hills in the area reminded them of home. It is located about a half hour south of Madison, Wi. New Glarus is considered America's Little Switzerland and has an official Swiss Consulate in town. People from Switzerland visit all the time and even the street signs are in Swiss and English. There are many, many festivals in town all summer long. Oktoberfest is the largest festival with the biggest draw of visitors.
The original buildings in town now comprise the Swiss Historical Village Museum. Another museum to visit is the Chalet of the Golden Fleece, this is a historically decorated and preserved Swiss Chalet home in town. We have a wonderful brewery in town that consistantly wins beer awards around the world. The New Glarus Brewery provides a free trolley/shuttle service around town to the museums, finally ending up at the brewery and beer garden on the outskirts of town. Oktoberfest is the last weekend of the season that the Brewery offers the trolley service around town. Very soon it will be getting quite cold here and an open sided trolley ride would be chilly! The New Glarus Bakery is one of the oldest (and best) continually operating bakeries in the United States. I have seen a Food Network program that mentioned it once, but I cannot recall which show. It is a great bakery.
Oktoberfest is a wonderful time to come and visit New Glarus. The weather is usually perfect and the tree colors are changing all around. There are several different brat stands around town with some of the best brats and sausage you'll ever try. They also have bbq pork and beef available at some of them and hot dogs or burgers. One stand even had cheese curds, a Wisconsin favorite. Alpine macaroni is my favorite food item to get from the Hotel New Glarus food stand. They also offer the biggest soft pretzels you have ever seen. Most of the stores in town have sales going on, so it is also a good time to find bargains.
In the festival tent, there are several bands that start playing on Friday night. Also, Friday night is when the brewmaster of New Glarus Brewing taps the keg of their Staghorn Oktoberfest beer. Yum! Saturday and Sunday afternoon both have tractor pulls by the lumber yard two blocks from the fest tent. Saturday afternoon also always brings the Max Drexler Brass Band to town. They are a polka/brass band that wears their lederhosen on stage and are very fun to watch. Many people who come to town even don their lederhosen and felt German/Swiss hats, some people are in full Oktoberfest wear. Some of the stores in town sell authentic Swiss clothes and hats that you could get for yourself if you don't have something!
On Sunday, every year, there is free cheese fondue at 2 o'clock right outside of the festival tent on main street. I am telling you, the fondue is worth the trip! It is an amazing blend of Swiss and other cheeses that is made by the chef of the Hotel New Glarus. You really must come try it some Oktoberfest.
I hope this hub peeks your interest in visiting New Glarus during my favorite festival! Any time of year New Glarus is a good place to visit, with it's charming shops and European architecture. The restaurants here also offer authentic Swiss/German food all year round. However, I think the best time to come is during Oktoberfest and hope you will consider visiting us soon!