WALLOWA COUNTY — A polka band, alphorns, Swiss yodeling, Alpine folk dancing, beer and bratwurst are all featured during Oregon’s Alpenfest.
The event’s main venue is moving from its traditional home, the Edelweiss Inn, to nearby Wallowa Lake State Park, located near Joseph. A large tent will be erected at the Wallowa Lake Marina to host the music and culinary festivities.
Alpenmeister Chuck Anderson said the move was necessary due to the continued deterioration of the 100-year-old historic building, which has served as Alpenfest’s home since 1975. However, he said the change shouldn’t dampen the spirits of the event.
“It will be a different experience, more like the original Munich Oktoberfest, which occurs primarily in tents,” Anderson said.
The festival celebrates the area’s reputation as Oregon’s Little Switzerland — its glacial setting with Wallowa Lake and the towering Wallowa Mountains reminds many visitors of the Swiss Alps. The event kicks off Thursday, Sept. 26 at 3:45 p.m. with a procession at Depot and Main streets in downtown Enterprise. The opening ceremony features alphorn, accordion and Swiss yodeling.
The ceremonial tapping of the first keg of Alpenfest beer follows at 5:30 p.m. at Terminal Gravity Brewery & Pub. The fun continues with Accordions at Alpenfest, featuring Alicia Baker of Denver. Anderson said it’s “not to be missed.” Admission is free, however, donations are gladly accepted to benefit the festival.
Accordions at Alpenfest kicks off Friday at 10 a.m. at the Joseph Visitor’s Center. The festival gets into full swing Friday at noon at the Wallowa Lake Marina. There is no admission charge for the Alpine Fair, which features art, craft and food vendors.
Friday evening, and Saturday morning, afternoon and evening performances include The Polkatones, the Tirolean Dancers, Swiss yodeler Shelby Imholt, alphorn player Bruce Coutant and Baker, an accordion virtuoso. Tickets for performances range from $18-$20 for adults and $9-$10 for kids.
“The Polkatones dance band is the best in the Pacific Northwest, and the most requested band at our Alpenfest,” Anderson said.
Other highlights, he said, include Imholt’s singing, an authentic Swiss yodeler. And Coutant, who resides in Enterprise, serves as the festival’s official alphornist.
“(He) will coax music out of the 12-foot horn that will surprise you,” Anderson said.
The festival features locally crafted bratwurst and beer on tap. The sausages come from Hines Meat Co., a family-owned butcher shop in La Grande.
“Hines’ brats are the best we’ve ever offered,” Anderson said. “That’s what our customers have told us.”
In addition to a special Alpenfest beer, Terminal Gravity will make a second brew and Barley Brown’s Brew Pub of Baker City will provide two more beers, Anderson said. Also other food and beer will be available at the Alpine Fair.