From Our Editors
In 1969, German immigrants Hans and Erika Bandows made their way from New York to Big Bear Lake, California, where they purchased Wawona Lodge (now Wolf Creek Lodge). After surviving their first winter and summer season, they decided to celebrate by hosting an Oktoberfest celebration like the ones they used to attend in Munich. They gathered kegs of German beer, prepared traditional food such as sauerkraut, and hired an oompah band. At noon on the day of the fest, Burgermeister Hans cracked open the keg with a mallet and cried “ozphat is!”—a tradition that still occurs to this day.
Indeed, that humble party is now Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest, one of the largest on the West Coast. The fest is dedicated to authenticity, even pouring the same style of beer that has been served at every Munich Oktoberfest since the 1800s. It also hires bands from Germany and cooks up brats and knockwurst sausages made by a German butcher. Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest spans several weekends in September and October.