Oktoberfest Review - 2016 Oktoberfest in August

2016 Oktoberfest in August

August 19 - 21, 2016
Schwaben Verein, 301 N. Weiland Road, Buffalo Grove, Illinois, United States Admission: $10

Overall: 80%
Authenticity:
Beer:
Food:
Entertainment:
Accessibility:

Food:
  • Leberkaese Dinner
  • Bratwurst or Thueringer Dinner
  • Leverkaese Sandwich
  • Bratwurst Sandwich
  • Thueringer Sandwich
  • Weisswurst with Pretzel
  • Bismarck Herring on a Bun
  • Landjaeger Pair
  • Sauerkraut
  • Potato Salad
  • Pretzel
  • Hog Dog on a Bun
  • Cake
  • Coffee
Beer:
  • Hofbräuhaus München
  • Dunnkel
  • Miller Lite
Wine:
  • White
  • Red

Entertainment:
  • Chef Dan and the Appetizers
  • Amazing Mike, One Man Band
  • Alte Kameraden
  • Phenix
  • German Dancers


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For those of you who don’t know, something extra special is happening this Oktoberfest season. Backyard Oktoberfest’s own Scott and Jessica will be getting married. After we tie the knot this September, we’re heading over to Europe to experience all the wonders of Munich’s 216th Oktoberfest - and maybe check out Dublin’s Oktoberfest while we’re in the neighborhood. Our wedding and subsequent travels will be an exciting time for us, but unfortunately it means that we’re going to miss out on some of our favorite local Oktoberfest events this year. Thankfully, we were still able to honor our long-held tradition of starting the season with Schwaben Verein’s Oktoberfest in August.

Last Saturday, we popped over to the Schwaben Center in Buffalo Grove for some traditional German fare. By the time we crossed the street from the free parking lot and paid our $10 apiece entry fee, Oktoberfest in August was already in full swing. It was a beautiful, cool evening, and local German-Americans and German-Aficionados alike were crowded into the large tent enjoying the music from the Freistadt Alta Kameraden Band. We grabbed some food and beer and got ready to get our oompah on.

As has been the case for the past few years, our feelings about the food and beverage selections available at Oktoberfest in August are mixed. We’re big fans of the beer. Anytime we can get a pitcher of Hofbräuhaus München for $14, we’re pretty happy about it. We were also excited to see Dunkel on tap. Even though we never actually got around to ordering any, we were glad to see another German beer option that you can’t find at your local sports pub. Other beverages offerings included Miller Lite, Jagermeister, both red and white wines, and of course water and soft drinks. As usual, we stuck to the Hofbräuhaus München, and we were not disappointed.

We were less thrilled by our food choices, however. We do not come into Oktoberfest in August with high hopes for culinary greatness. That’s not the goal of this event. But we have to report that the food we ordered this year was just okay. To be fair, the nature of the outdoor event space at the Schwaben Center makes food preparation tricky and keeping food warm difficult - especially on a cool night that felt more like autumn than the height of summer. Unfortunately this meant that our pretzels ($2) and Thueringer sandwiches ($7) were cold. We ate them anyway, but the temperature did not help the already bland sausage and dry bun. Mustard helped, but not much. Still, as we snacked on Landjaeger ($3) and apple cake ($4), we had to admit that we were satisfied and ready for some dancing.

The Freistadt Alta Kameraden Band kept the crowd engaged and entertained during their long sets. Not one, but two snake dances broke out in the couple of hours we watched them perform. They also provided accompaniment for a group of German dancers, which is always fun to watch. A shoutout must be given for the other entertainment of the evening, as well. RCJuggle was positioned right outside the tent and spent the evening making some of the most elaborate balloon sculptures we’ve ever seen. As most of the revelers kept their eyes on the band, we watched their children walking around with light-up balloon aliens, various weaponry, intricate hats, and lifelike animals, including one very impressive giant squid. They even helped one young girl live out her dream of wearing Iron Man’s suit, made entirely out of balloons. (Aside: It was crazy, and I want one.)

Above all, our favorite thing about this event is the community feel. None of our friends could attend the event with us this year, but it didn’t matter because everyone is friends at Oktoberfest in August. From the friendly vendors to the enthusiastic crowd, the interactions between people of all ages makes this feels like a block party. In fact, this year, that community spirit led to a surprise encounter for us. As we stood off to the side of the tent, simultaneously watching the band and the balloon artist, we heard, “Hey, aren’t you Backyard Oktoberfest?” Indeed, we are, so we said hello and ended up having a nice chat with a man who is set to host his own backyard Oktoberfest this year. It was a highlight of our night. So, if you spot us at your local Oktoberfest, don’t be shy. Come and say hello. That’s one of the best things about Oktoberfest. Even if you go in by yourself, you leave with new friends and great memories.

Thanks for the new memories, Oktoberfest in August. We’ll see you next year.


Reviewed By: Jessica Jones

Oktoberfest Review - 2015 Oktoberfest in August

2015 Oktoberfest in August

August 14 - 16, 2015
Schwaben Verein, 301 N. Weiland Road, Buffalo Grove, Illinois, United States Admission: $10

Overall: 84%
Authenticity:
Beer:
Food:
Entertainment:
Accessibility:

Food:
  • Leberkaese Dinner
  • Bratwurst or Thueringer Dinner
  • Leverkaese Sandwich
  • Bratwurst Sandwich
  • Thueringer Sandwich
  • Weisswurst with Pretzel
  • Bismarck Herring on a Bun
  • Landjaeger Pair
  • Sauerkraut
  • Potato Salad
  • Pretzel
  • Hog Dog on a Bun
  • Cake
  • Coffee
  • Nachos
  • Blooming Onions
Beer:
  • HB München
  • Hefeweiss
  • Miller Lite
Wine:
  • White
  • Red

Entertainment:
  • Chef Dan and the Appetizers
  • Amazing Mike, One Man Band
  • Alte Kameraden
  • Polkaholics
  • Phenix
  • German Dancers


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Me and Andrea

As always, we kicked off this year’s season with Oktoberfest in August, sponsored by Schwaben Verein of Chicago. Located in Buffalo Grove, IL, this ‘fest has a community feel, complete with local vendors and tons of townspeople. Blending domestic comforts with some authentic German flair, Oktoberfest in August is a nice hybrid event that helps us seamlessly transition from backyard barbecues into Oktoberfest season.

We attended this year’s weekend-long event on Saturday, hoping to catch the official keg tapping and spend some quality time with some of our favorite Oktoberfest bands. By the time we arrived on the scene, the event was hopping. The ample parking facilities were quite full, which we took as a good sign - both for the Schwaben Verein of Chicago who put on the event and for attendees like us dressed in our recently dusted off German finery and eager to launch our favorite season. (Seriously, guys, there were so many people in lederhosen and dirndls. It was quite a sight for sore eyes.)

Me and Scott

At $10, admission for the event is a little more than we’d like to spend just to walk through the gate, but free parking is a nice perk to balance out the cost of admission. Kids under 12 are also free, which would be a nice perk if we had kids under 12.

We grabbed a couple of pretzels and a pitcher of authentic Hofbräu München (quite reasonably priced at $14, we should note) and settled in for the night at a table near the stage. We had worried about the heat - it was August after all - but they had set up large fans that kept the tent at a comfortable temperature. Entertainment was already in full swing, and we were thrilled to grab a spot so close to the Alte Kameraden Band. The other attendees were equally impressed by the German music and the traditional dancers who accompanied the band. Not long after we arrived, a snake dance was announced, and many people - including Backyard Oktoberfest’s own Scott - were happy to join in.

However, the downside of such engaging entertainment is that we ended up missing the keg tapping entirely. We were expecting a formal announcement, but there wasn’t one. The scheduled time for the keg tapping came and went without any additional fanfare, which was a disappointment because we specifically came that day to check it out. In the future, we would recommend/appreciate a formal announcement or some other way of catching people’s attention. The keg tapping is an important part of any Oktoberfest celebration, and we were bummed to have missed it.

The food and beverage offerings at Oktoberfest in August are a bit of a mixed bag. They serve plain hot dogs, blooming onions, and nachos in addition to traditional German offerings such as leberkäse, thueringer, and landjaeger. In a similar blend of the domestic and imported, they serve Miller Lite as well as Hofbrau München and hefeweiss. We at Backyard Oktoberfest have mixed feelings about this menu. We recognize that some attendees might be scared off by exotic menu items, so it’s nice that they offer some carnival-type foods for less adventurous diners. But at the same time, we like to strive for cultural immersion at events like these. You can get nachos anywhere; you can only get landjaeger at Oktoberfest. That said, after several pitchers of beer, we did find ourselves in line for nachos only to be bitterly disappointed when we learned that they had sold out. We ended up with a blooming onion, which unfortunately suffered from an unbalanced ratio of onion to bloom. We learned our lesson. Next year, we’ll stick to traditional Oktoberfest foods.

Scott doing the snake

By the time the Polkaholics took the stage at 8:00, the crowd had already started clearing out. We have a couple of theories about why this happened. It could be that most of the attendees had been there since the gates opened at 1:00, so they had already put in a full day of Oktoberfest-ing. Alternatively, it could be that the patrons of Oktoberfest in August are not a late-night bunch. Many of the attendees fell into the over-50 set, and as much as we hate to generalize, maybe high-energy polka just isn’t their jam. The Polkaholics are a rockin’ good time, but it is a stark shift from the more traditional German music that started the evening. We’re big fans of the band, so we were glad to see them play, but it would have been nice if more people had stayed through their set.

Overall, Oktoberfest in August is a fine event. It’s not the most authentic event we attend, but it’s always a fun time with a good-natured crowd. We’re always excited to check it out.


Full Band
Full Band

Reviewed By: Jessica Jones

Oktoberfest Review - 2013 Oktoberfest in August

2013 Oktoberfest in August

August 16 - 18, 2013
Schwaben Verein, 301 N. Weiland Road, Buffalo Grove, Illinois, United States Admission: $5

Overall: 84%
Authenticity:
Beer:
Food:
Entertainment:
Accessibility:

Food:
  • Leberkaese Dinner
  • Bratwurst or Thueringer Dinner
  • Leverkaese Sandwich
  • Bratwurst Sandwich
  • Thueringer Sandwich
  • Bismarck Herring on a Bun
  • Landjaeger Pair
  • Sauerkraut
  • Potato Salad
  • Pretzel
  • Hog Dog on a Bun
  • Cake
  • Coffee
Beer:
  • Spaten Premium Lager
  • Franziskaner Hefeweizen
  • Miller Lite
Wine:
  • White
  • Red

Entertainment:
  • The Fidelen Kircheimer
  • Alte Kameraden


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Full Band Oktoberfest in August kicked off the 2013 Oktoberfest season. The event is sponsored by the Schwaben Athletic Club, a German club that adds authenticity to the event. This Oktoberfest was held on the same grounds as last year and again with the same police presence to insure order. Parking was easy and free. Admission to the event was $5 and a quick ID check and you were in.

My friends and I arrived around 8:30p which was a little later than last year. This was because we spent the day at the Arlington Race Track watching horse racing (which was a regular occurrence at Oktoberfest from its beginning through 1960). Tent Overview Once inside the gates we looked around the venue a little bit. The big tent from last year was there as well as all of the seating on the inside and out. There was one main food tent and the beer and other beverages were found at the back of the big tent.

Prices for food and drink were the same as last year. We started out with a pitcher of Spaten Lager for $14. Everything is done by a ticket system where you buy tickets then exchange them for food and drink. It is a slight hassle but I understand why it is done and I have no problem with it. For dinner I had a Thüringer sandwich as well as a bratwurst sandwich. The Thüringer sandwich was good, on par with last year. The bratwurst was only ok. I would have expected a better tasting brat from a German club. The pretzel was only ok as well; it surprisingly lacked salt and was a little hard since it looked as if it were sitting out all day. The sauerkraut was good but the potato salad was lacking.

Traditional Dance Alte Kameraden performed last year and were again a delight. They are highly entertaining and they have very good crowd engagement. They did do the snake through the crowd which I was able to join in this year and it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately for us, they were only on until 9:00p then they were followed by The Fidelen Kircheimer from Germany. Last year Suburban Cowboys finished off the night and I recommended in my post that they try and stick to a German-only entertainment lineup. This year it seems like they took my advice but I was sadly disappointed. The Fidelen Kircheimer was a traditional oompah band and I would have liked to hear more upbeat songs after 9:00p.

I don’t know if it is a result of the band but the crowd started to dwindle after 9:00p and my friends and I only stayed until about 10:00p. The event was very similar to last year which wasn’t bad but at the same time I didn’t see much improvement. The addition of The Fidelen Kircheimer was a good try but unfortunately they fell short.

I will still attend next year since Oktoberfest in August kicks off my Oktoberfest season but I will probably go in with less high hopes. This Oktoberfest is a decent event but I have a feeling they are set in their ways and don’t really want to change it up all that much. A more upbeat German band to close the night would be a great addition. Maybe they will surprise me next year.
Full Band

Reviewed By: Scott Rzepka

Oktoberfest Review - 2012 Oktoberfest in August

2012 Oktoberfest in August

August 17 - 19, 2012
Schwaben Verein, 301 N. Weiland Road, Buffalo Grove, Illinois, United States Admission: $5

Overall: 86%
Authenticity:
Beer:
Food:
Entertainment:
Accessibility:
Food:
  • Leberkaese Dinner
  • Bratwurst or Thueringer Dinner
  • Leverkaese Sandwich
  • Bratwurst Sandwich
  • Thueringer Sandwich
  • Bismarck Herring on a Bun
  • Landjaeger Pair
  • Sauerkraut
  • Potato Salad
  • Pretzel
  • Hog Dog on a Bun
  • Cake
  • Coffee
Beer:
  • Spaten Premium Lager
  • Franziskaner Hefeweizen
  • Miller Lite
Wine:
  • White
  • Red
Entertainment:
  • Chef Dan and the Appetizers
  • Alte Kameraden
  • Suburban Cowboys
  • Paloma
  • American English

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Full Band Oktoberfest in August was a welcome surprise. From the pictures on the website it was hard to tell how big the event was going to be and whether or not it was worth attending. Needless to say when I arrived at the parking lot I was in for a surprise. Local police were directing traffic to the parking lot across the street from the venue. We arrived around 6:00pm and had to park in the very back of the lot. We walked from the parking lot across the street to the Oktoberfest. The local police had things very well organized and made it easy for pedestrians crossing the street.

Carnival Members The ticket process was also very easy. Quick payment and a check of your ID and you were good to go. The grounds of the Oktoberfest were a lot bigger than I imagined from the pictures I saw before. They had a giant tent which was probably about 100 feet long and plenty of tables and chairs. Outside of the tent they had rows of standing tables as well as a number of smaller tents which provided food and merchandise.

The grounds for this Oktoberfest are the Schwaben Verein which is a German club so the authenticity of the event was rather exceptional. The entertainment during the day was also very authentic. Alte Kameraden from Milwaukee to the traditional dancers, it is what you would expect from an American Oktoberfest. Unfortunately, the late evening’s entertainment was just ok. Suburban Cowboys played after the traditional band and I do have to say they put on an excellent show but it is not what I would expect from an Oktoberfest.

Traditional Dance The food and beer were also great. I had a Thüringer sandwich and pretzel for $7 and my friend had the bratwurst. We ordered a pitcher of Spaten Premium Lager (I’m assuming that this early in the season they do not have the luxury of serving an Oktoberfest beer). The pitcher ran for $14 and held roughly 3½ beers. Later in the evening we purchased plates of sauerkraut and German potato salad. We had seats right up front for the band and the dancing. It was entertaining to see the number of people who went up and danced to the different songs. One highlight was the giant snake they created by having people from the event join on at the end as they slithered through the tent to then come back up front and get everyone on the dance floor. I did not participate only because I didn’t want to lose my seat but the number of people beckoning me made me wish that I had.

Oktoberfest in August was a welcome surprise and a great start for the 2012 Oktoberfest season. I had no idea what to expect coming in and the event was outstanding. The only negative marks I would give it would be the evening band choices but you can’t have all German all the time if you are planning on drawing a crowd. Overall, it was a great time and one I look forward to attending again. Especially since it is in August, it will almost never conflict with another Oktoberfest.
Full Band

Traditional Dancers


Full Band

Enjoying a pitcher of Spaten


Full Band

Andrea and Me


Full Band

Snake going though the crowd



Reviewed By: Scott Rzepka