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Monday, September 15, 2008
Mt. Angel is an odd town. Maybe not as odd as Leavenworth, Washington but I'm sure it ranks high among the country's communities with peculiar Bavarian fixations. Frankly, the whole place looks like the queue for the Matterhorn Bobsled ride at Disneyland. Many of the buildings downtown, including the US Bank, have an Alpine theme and the locals treat Oktoberfest like Christmas, the Fourth of July and George Clooney's birthday all rolled into one.
Going back three generations, my family has attended nearly every Mt. Angel Oktoberfest going back to its first one in the mid-60s. Being a jaded metropolitan cynic, I should probably find myself scoffing at an enormously cheesy regional festival where grown, allegedly sane adults run around dressed in lederhosen on 90-degree days but this something I actually look forward to every year. I dig the food booths that put a Germanic spin on non-Germanic foods like "fish tacos," the always overcrowded Weingarten, the glockenspiel and the beer stein contests. I draw the line at suiting up in traditional Bavarian garb but one year I did find myself drunk enough to buy a pair of wooden clogs that have been sitting at the bottom of my closet ever since.
Another embarrassing confession: I've seen a family band that plays the Weingarten every year more times than any other live act. I've sat through at least a dozen of Z Musikmakers' annual gigs over the years and, while I can't name a single member, I can tell you that one daughter played her last gig in '06 in order to attend college, another daughter seems to hate the whole thing but shows up every year anyway and the youngest one is an amazing violinist. While it seemed to be causing her actual, physical pain to get through the whole thing, she managed to absolutely kill a fiddle song on Sunday....ah, you know the one. The song on those "Beef, It's What for Dinner" commercials that everyone knows but no one can name.
Here she is, on the verge of her arms falling off in front of a crowd of a thousand people. I know, based on this photo it looks like she's playing in a church basement but there really is a large building filled with people outside of the camera frame. In addition to Bavarian standards like the chicken dance song, Z Musikmakers close their shows with a very weird German-fried version of Kool & the Gang's "Celebration."
I've never spent time in Mt. Angel other than during Oktoberfest weekend but I get the feeling that it's pretty much all Bavaria, all the time 365 days out of the year. In addition to a few German restaurants, there's a bar called Frank N' Steins on the main drag.