comment 0

American Oktoberfest – a little taste of the German Alps in the southern United States

By Erik S. Lesser

Several years ago I had a brief encounter with Oktoberfest in the quaint north Georgia town of Helen. Now that I work for a company with headquarters in Germany, I decided to take another jaunt to the Alpine village.

Wade Norton, 85, of Doraville, Georgia, enjoys his beer inside the Festhalle festival hall during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

Wade Norton, 85, of Doraville, Georgia, enjoys his beer inside the Festhalle festival hall during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

Once a sleepy logging town in the Blue Ridge Mountains, city business leaders decided in 1968 that an economic face-lift was needed to bring in the tourists and money. They were correct, and while some people make fun of Helen, many others enjoy visiting for the day or longer. Most of all the economic revival has created many jobs.

American Oktoberfest: The downtown tourist district during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

American Oktoberfest: The downtown tourist district during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

Now in their 44th year, far behind Munich, Oktoberfest and all things Bavaria is big business in Helen. Candy shops, German and northern European themed restaurants, imported gifts and even an Heidi Hotel dot the landscape. Helen is even a sister city with Füssen, Germany.

Visitors celebrate the season inside the Festhalle festival hall during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

Visitors celebrate the season inside the Festhalle festival hall during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

American Oktoberfest: A man walks by a mural on the Festhalle festival hall during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

American Oktoberfest: A man walks by a mural on the Festhalle festival hall during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

I don’t own a pair of Lederhosen and luckily they are not required. There are plenty of people who proudly wear Lederhosen and other German-style clothing, but you also see locals wearing cowboy boots. In fact, there are many people who return year after year, paying the entrance fee to the Festhalle to raise their commemorative mugs and steins to German toasts and participate in polkas and the chicken dance and celebrate their heritage. There are even retired couples who have moved to the area to be closer to the action and volunteer.

People dance inside the Festhalle festival hall during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

People dance inside the Festhalle festival hall during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

Other German traditions are heartily celebrated in Helen throughout the year including Fasching and the dropping of the Edelweiss on New Year’s Eve.

So, willkommen to a little taste of the German Alps in the southern United States.

Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter to stay in touch for more insightful stories from behind the scenes.

The full feature package is available on our website: www.epa.eu

Leave a Reply