Alphorns rule at Oregon’s Alpenfest

Following is a guest post by Chuck Anderson, Oregon’s Alpenfest

WALLOWA LAKE, Oregon__Alphorns – those 12-foot-long horns popularized in Ricola cough drop commercials – made history during the 37th edition of Oregon’s Alpenfest, Wallowa County’s annual Swiss-Bavarian festival. The traditional Swiss horns were played all over the Wallowa Lake area, known to many as Oregon’s Little Switzerland, during the festival Sept. 24-27. They appeared on the lawn of the Wallowa Lake Tramway, at the top of 8,255-foot Mt. Howard and at all four shows of Oregon’s Alpenfest.

For most festival-goers the high point happened Saturday night, when Salzburger Echo band members brought out their three alphorns and were joined by Enterprise-based alphornist Bruce Coutant and alphornist Larry Johnson of Portland. Together, their rich blended sounds echoed through the historic Edelweiss Inn, home of Oregon’s Alpenfest since 1975.

“It was a moment to take your breath away and bring a tear to your eye, the music was so beautiful,” said Chuck Anderson, the festival’s alpenmeister/president. “This made Wallowa County history and probably was a first for Oregon as well.”

Alphorns are traditional instruments in Switzerland, used for centuries to communicate between shepherds up in the mountains and their families in the valleys.

The small-town festival was one of the biggest in its history, with a significant increase in attendance over the past few years, according to Anderson. Some 1,024 Joseph Trading Post bratwursts were served, along with 827 pints of Terminal Gravity’s Alpenfest Ale. The bratwurst, the official sausage of the festival, is crafted at Mt. Joseph Family Foods in nearby Joseph, as is the store’s Alpenfest Sauerkraut. The beer is brewed seasonally by Terminal Gravity Brewery in Enterprise, the county seat.

Oregon’s Alpenfest is the last major event each year in the remote rural county, in Oregon’s far northeast corner. The event is scheduled after Labor Day to inject an estimated $150,000 into the county economy as the tourist season ends. Anderson said “no-vacancy” signs were lighted at all available lodgings at Wallowa Lake and Joseph.

In addition to Salzburger Echo, whose members came from Salt Lake City, featured performers were Swiss yodeler Art Brogli of Lodi, Calif., the 16-member Tirolean Dancers of Oregon and alphornist Coutant playing solo.

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Note: Oregon’s Alpenfest takes place September 22-25, 2016. Visitors are advised to make plans and lodging reservations early, as the event is expected to continue to grow. Go to www.wallowacountychamber.com for a lodging list.

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