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Munich on the Border
Article first published in Vol. 11, 1993.
By Kelly Caprio and Lori Powe
If you've never had the pleasure of visiting Munich, you can still experience the philosophy and the fun and frolic of Bavarian culture by attending any one of the many Oktoberfests held locally during the fall.
Besides Oktoberfest at Fort Bliss, El Pasoans can attend several other festivals held here and in the surrounding area. Doris Laus, owner of Gunther's Edelweiss Restaurant in El Paso, encourages people to attend their two-day, 12-year-old Oktoberfest celebration. "Prices are cheaper and service is better here than in Munich," says Laus.
Beer machine is used at Fort Bliss Oktoberfest. Photo by Victor Alonso
Most people who attend the Oktoberfest at Gunther's are Americans who have previously visited Germany, some while in the military, and so have become accustomed to this celebration, They are happy to find that a variety of German specialties are available from the dinner menu. Waitresses in costume bring pretzels and salted white radishes to the table before dinner is served. And diners can enjoy polka music that is being played by Gunther's five-piece band.
For those who don't mind traveling a short distance, Las Cruces, New Mexico also offers a great Oktoberfest, first held in 1991. The idea came from German native Ursula Straus after the city canceled its annual wine festival.
In 1992, the festival was held in large tents on Maag field on the NMSU campus. Festival goers found plenty of German beer in pitchers or bottles, German wine and non-alcoholic drinks The food included sausages, smoked pork chops, potato salad, soft pretzels sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), and strudels and tortes for dessert.
Las Cruces also offered plenty of German music, according to Straus, by hosting two bands, Lillie's Polka Magic and Horst Klausner's Polka Dots, who also play for the Oktoberfest celebration at Gunther's Edelweiss Restaurant. Ruby's International Folk Dancers and Hochberg Tanzer Folk Dancers performed various German dances for the crowd.
The planners of this Oktoberfest hand out menus which not only list the food and beer being served but also provide the words to some of the more popular beer-drinking songs.
Still farther into New Mexico, Cloudcroft holds an Oktoberfest that is really an arts and crafts festival held in conjunction with the annual Aspencade tour. The name was changed to Oktoberfest 15 or 20 years ago in honor of the German Air Force contingent stationed at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo. No beer is served because the festival is held in a city park, but a variety of food, not necessarily German, is available.
Further north in New Mexico, Ruidoso provides an Oktoberfest worth the two and one-half hour drive from El Paso. The fest is a two-day event, celebrated in mid-October.
This festival provides plenty of entertainment for those who attend. Five groups travel from Colorado, Albuquerque and El Paso to perform at this event. These groups include The Olympia Flame Greek Dancers from El Paso, Ruby's International Dance Ensemble the Enzian Schuplatter Dancers and Die Polka-Schiengels, a 12-piece band from Albuquerque, and Rocky Mountain Rhineland Band Trio from Colorado.
You can find schnitzel, potato soup, and German sausages, pancakes and pastries to eat. To quench your thirst, you can choose between German and American beer and a full bar.
This fall when you're searching for something to do, remember the variety of Oktoberfests available and sample a bit of "Munich on the border."