Culture and carbs at Glenwood Springs’ Oktoberfest |

Culture and carbs at Glenwood Springs’ Oktoberfest

Stina Sieg
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Courtesy photo

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” What is beer called in Bavaria?

“It is referred to as the ‘other carbohydrate,'” said the Bavarian-born Gerhard Rill, with a laugh.

For anyone deficient in that food group, he’s got a celebration for you this Saturday.

All afternoon and into the evening, Glenwood’s Centennial Park will be filled with the sights, sounds ” and libations ” of Oktoberfest. Though much smaller and shorter than its Munich namesake, the event still brings out a crowd of fun-loving folks.

And they aren’t just there for the ale.

As is tradition, Rill and his Bavarian band, Alpine Echo, will give the bash that classic “oompah” sound. With its horns, guitar, keyboard ” and the ever-so-necessary accordion ” Echo makes people smile.

Or maybe it’s the members’ lederhosen, suspenders and traditional hats that do the trick.

“It’s fun music. It’s happy music,” Rill explained. “It makes you want to tap your feet, clap your hands and dance.”

It’s played by the pros, too. Between Rill, his father, Bathasar, and fellow band members Joseph Pologar and John Pataky, Echo boasts about 170 years of combined musical experience. Almost all of these fellows were born in the “old country” to boot. For nearly the last decade, they’ve been lending their traditional sound to all kinds of festivals and parties around the valley, but Rill seemed to have a special place in his heart for the concept of Oktoberfest. Originally begun in the early 1800s in Germany, it started out as a high-end wedding reception.

It’s party atmosphere certainly never faded. Rill likes how everyone, from sharp jet-setters to dreadlocked teenagers, seem to enjoy themselves.

“And the beautiful thing about it is, it makes no difference if you’re 5 or 95,” he said.

As Andreas Grogger described the day: “The music is good. The beer is good. The food is good.”

That’s the kind of simplicity it’s easy to get behind.

A native Austrian, Grogger has a catering company, Service at its Best, which provides the hearty home-style Bavarian treats all day long. Between his beef goulash, cheese dumplings, bratwursts and more, he’s certainly got the comfort food niche cornered. After working for years at the original Oktoberfest, Grogger sees the similar festivals across the Western Slope as a chance to show Coloradans what true Alpine cuisine is really all about. Aside from the sausages, everything he serves he made from scratch.

And is it popular?

“Oh, yeah, very,” he replied, in his thick accent. “Last year, some people came back four times to my booth.”

This day is a crowd pleaser, no doubt, but perhaps there’s more to it than just the food and drink and songs. Bob Akmenkalns likes to believe so.

“I think people also want to reconnect with their heritage, in a lot of cases,” he explained.

He’s definitely ready to help them out.

Born in Nuremburg, he’s been performing traditional Bavarian dances and music in the States for the last 40 years. During the festival, he and his historical preservation club, D’Miesbacher Oimtaler, will regale the crowd with coordinated whip cracking and cowbell ringing. They’ll also do Schuhplattler, a high energy, thigh-slapping form of folk dance that’s survived for almost a thousand years. Akmenkalns is actually the top rated male performer of the art in North America and third in Bavaria.

He enjoys how Oktoberfest is for everyone ” from the young to the old, beer connoisseurs to nondrinkers alike. He loves how they all boogie down together once the music starts to play. Though deeply entrenched in the world of German culture, the way he described the day sounded fully American.

As he put it, “It’s good, clean, family fun.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User