WALLOWA LAKE, Oregon__ Hand-crafted bratwurst, Terminal Gravity microbrew and the long-anticipated return of the Happy Hans German band from Maple Valley, Wash., are highlights of the 2016 Oregon’s Alpenfest, the only Swiss-Bavarian festival in the West.
The festival takes place Sept. 22-25 with performances at Wallowa Lake and additional activities in Joseph and Enterprise, all at beautiful Wallowa Lake, in the shadow of the spectacular Wallowa Mountains, one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon.
Oregon’s Alpenfest features live bands, Swiss yodeling, Alpine folk dancing, alphorn music, visiting accordionists and the Alpine Fair, with vendors selling food, jewelry, crafts, wood furniture, quilts, goat milk soap, knotted rugs and other quality goods.
A major change in the performance format was put into place for this year’s festival. Instead of four shorter shows, there will be continuous entertainment from 1 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday for a single admission ticket at the historic Edelweiss Inn. Adults also will receive a free beer mug.
By popular demand, Randy and Ashley Thull, professional polka dancers from Wisconsin who appear on RFD-TV’s “Mollie B Polka Party,” will teach free polka lessons at noon and 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday.
Details and ticket information are available at oregonalpenfest.com.
The Happy Hans band will perform each evening, led by Hans Rainer Jr., son of the band’s founder, and consisting of his sons Erik and Karl plus Kory Tideman. The band entertained at Alpenfest several times, most recently in 1996, when Hans Rainer Sr. led the musicians. The band is presented by Mt. Joseph Family Foods of Joseph.
In the afternoon, polka music will be provided by Jim and Shirley O’Brien, whose Roland digital accordions simulate an entire band electronically. The O’Briens, who perform as Polka Express, are retired university professors who have become popular entertainers throughout the western states.
Returning to Oregon’s Alpenfest is Swiss yodeler Arthur Brogli, a Swiss native who hails from Lodi, California. Brogli has entertained throughout the nation and been a huge hit at Oregon’s Alpenfest for the past two years.
Also performing are the Tirolean Dancers of Oregon, popular Alpenfest folk dancers for many years. Their energetic style is typical of Switzerland, Germany and Austria. The dancers hail from all over Oregon and Washington and are regulars at festivals throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Solo alphorn player Bruce Coutant lives in Enterprise, where, as one of very few alphorn builders outside Europe, he crafts the traditional 12-footlong horns. Coutant also plays French horn.
Cuisine at Oregon’s Alpenfest includes Joseph Trading Post bratwurst and Alpenfest sauerkraut crafted at Mt. Joseph Family Foods and Alpenfest Ale brewed by Terminal Gravity Brewing of Enterprise. German beers also will be available.
The traditional outdoor Alpenfest Breakfast will be staged Saturday and Sunday by the Wallowa Lake Tourist Committee as its fall fundraiser.
The festival opens at 4 p.m. on Thursday, September 22, with a procession down Main Street in Enterprise to the Wallowa County Courthouse gazebo for the opening ceremony. Immediately following is “Accordions at Alpenfest” at Terminal Gravity Brewery in Enterprise with the ceremonial tapping of the first keg of Alpenfest Ale at 5:30 p.m.