LETHBRIDGE – It’s likely a few pints of German brews were consumed in the planning of what has become one of the merriest and most popular events in town over the past three years – the Lethbridge Oktoberfest.
This event, in its fourth year, was inspired by the success of another local European tradition – the FIFA World Cup soccer party. Event producing brothers John and Roy Pogorzelski (aka the Pogo brothers) took the FIFA success as a sign to try the beer festival.
"It grows exponentially each year,” says Roy of the beer fest, which attracted 6,000 people last year to Galt Gardens in downtown Lethbridge.
The brothers, of German ancestry, travelled to the original Oktoberfest in Munich for inspiration and ideas. This year, they’ve got the help of a local consultant, Thorsten Nesch, an award-winning Young Adult fiction writer and filmmaker who hails from Germany.
Nesch set the brothers straight on the importance of offering authentic, juicy German Bratwurst sausages – “not just the kind from the supermarket.” The brothers now source the real thing from the Wooden Shoe, a local European grocer.
“It’s nice to have friends from Germany to ask cultural questions,” says Roy, who’s gotten advice on everything from the type of pretzels they should offer to the type of competitions to hold.
The German pretzels are provided by two local women, originally from Munich. They’ll be back again this year. Also on the menu is a specially created schnitzel from Joe Euphemia, Telegraph Tap House owner.
The trifecta of tempting food – schnitzel, pretzels and Bratwurst – is perfect for a beer festival, says Roy. “It coats your stomach and dries your mouth.”
Yes, German beer, entertainment and food are the main attractions, but the event is more than that, says Roy. The fest is a celebration of all kinds of cultures.
“We’re trying to reach out to a broader range of people, who may say ‘nothing happens here.’" When they come to Oktoberfest, he says, it changes people’s minds about Lethbridge.
Local craft brewer Theoretically Brewing Co., is increasing its special limited-edition brew offering with bigger volumes and two choices of brew: a traditional Ziggy Zaggy Hefeweizen along with the new Ein Prosit Wheat Ale. In addition to the local brews, the Pogo brothers say they will have as many German beers available as they can get their hands on.
“Last year we ran out of beer. We are not doing that this year!” says John. “We’re bringing in 60 kegs.”
One thing there will be no shortage of is German music with entertainment from the ever-popular Alpen Schatz from Medicine Hat and the Polka-holics, which also play at the after-party at the Telegraph Tap House, and where there are a wide variety of beers.
This frothy, fun-filled weekend adds up to what the Germans call gemütlichkeit (pronounced, ge-mootlik-kite). Translation: warmth, friendliness and good cheer.
Prost, to that!
6 hacks to make the most of your Oktoberfest weekend:
Google a couple of classic German beer drinking songs like Ein Prosit and Ziggy Zoggy, Oi, Oi, Oi and start practising. You’re sure to hear the Pogo brothers instigate a beer hall sing-along throughout the weekend.
Come open minded to discover new beers. Yes, there are the standard North American beers, but John says, you will pay a premium to drink those.
Guys, show off those gams and wear some lederhosen, the traditional German shorts with suspenders.
Ladies, find yourself a drindl, the traditional Bavarian blouse and dress to get into the spirit.
Teach yourself how to do the polka or waltz because according to Roy, “The whole park becomes a dance floor.”
Don’t overindulge and drink wisely. A word of advice from the Pogo brothers: Keep it light in the afternoon by sipping on something like Schofferhofer, a nice grapefruity summer beer. Then, in the evening switch to a wheat beer like the Hefeweisen.
If You Go
Make sure to add the Lethbridge Oktoberfest to your calendar. Join the Facebook Event below
Looking to stay in Lethbridge? Watch this video and get inspired to spend more time in the city.
Are you ready to indulge in this German tradition? Share this page with your friends and start planning your trip to the Lethbridge Oktoberfest!