Yes, it’s that time of year again – time to grab a stein of beer, a bratwurst and celebrate everything Bavarian at the 2010 Ouray Oktoberfest celebration on Saturday, Oct. 2 from 5 to 10 p.m. at the Ouray Community Center Biergarten.
Oktoberfest in Ouray has become a mainstay on the town’s event calendar – one of its most sought-after celebrations for nearly 15 years, when the Ouray Community Center is transformed into a German hofbrau. Inside you’ll find food, live music by the Austrian Connection band, dancing and beer – lots of beer.
Event organizer Barbara Uhles says the celebration in Ouray has grown in popularity since she began putting the festival together back in 1993. Despite a brief hiatus as event organizer, Uhles is now in her third consecutive year planning the fall celebration. She took on the task after attending the 1993 Ouray Oktoberfest, where she noted the only music was coming from a small boombox.
“It was not playing German music, just music. I said at the time, ‘If we are going to have an Oktoberfest, let’s have an Oktoberfest,’” Uhles recalls.
So she took the lead as Oktoberfest organizer, despite knowing little about the annual autumn tradition. But a coincidental trip to Germany with her husband led her on a tour of Munich’s tents and biergartens that house their celebration. This research eventually resulted in a unique transformation of the Ouray Community Center into an authentic German biergarten.
“I just racked my brain to figure out how to do it right,” she says. “I got in touch with a linen supplier and bought a bunch of blue king-size sheets and had them sewn together. We draped them over the ceiling so it looks like a tent. Then I got 200 red and yellow balloons and decorated this ‘tent’ and made it a lot more festive.”
As if the creation of a Munich-style tent inside the Ouray Community Center wasn’t enough, Uhles and her crew built an arbor made of grape ivy over the stairway that leads up to the biergarten.
“It’s really festive,” she says. “The decorations create a great atmosphere.”
Once Uhles was able to create that festive atmosphere, she then decided to do something about the music.
“You have to have live music,” she says. Although at the time her musician uncle had a German band, it was too expensive to bring them to Ouray, so Uhles searched for a band on the Front Range. “I called all the German clubs and restaurants in Denver and asked them what bands they used. I still have my original paper that has the names of all those bands on it, but none of them could do it. I got so discouraged and asked myself ‘How am I going to do this without a German band?’”
Finally, she followed a tip that led her to the Austrian Connection band, which turned out to be a perfect match; they have played Bavarian music at the Ouray Oktoberfest ever since.
The Austrian Connection features Walter Schwarz (guitar, zither and vocals), Doris Schwarz (accordion and steirische), Julie Kuhl (guitar and vocals) and Deon Kuhl (percussion and vocals). Walter, who hails from Austria, established the Austrian Connection the same year they started playing in Ouray. His yodeling is one-of-a-kind and his exciting performances always bring the crowds to their feet, dancing and singing. Doris plays an outstanding steirische, a typical Austrian instrument that gives the Austrian Connection their unique sound. Her performances are always a highlight of the evening.
Julie, on the acoustic guitar, is a crowd pleaser with her magnificent voice. Prior to joining the Austrian Connection, she played and recorded with several bands in Colorado. From rock and roll to yodeling, Julie provides edge and glue to the band. Percussionist Deon, who has been playing the drums for 43 years, recording and performing with many Colorado bands, ties everything together.
“These guys are the perfect fit for our celebration,” Uhles says. “Everybody likes them and they like coming.”
Sara Sharpe from Ouray’s A Secret Garden catering will be providing classic German food, from beer-boiled and grilled bratwursts to sauerkraut, potato pancakes and pretzels. Between dancing and eating, Oktoberfest celebrants can fill their steins with locally brewed beer by Colorado Boy Pub and Brewery and the Ouray Brewery.
Ouray Oktoberfest is also the venue for the annual Jeep Raffle drawing. Tickets may still be purchased right up to 9 p.m., when the drawing takes place.
“We have had people from all over Colorado attend,” Uhles says. “It will be wall-to-wall people with great German food, great German music and lot of fun.”
Admission is $10 for adults, which included a beer stein. Student tickets are $5 and children under 12 may attend for free.