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The many meanings of Oktoberfest: Locals reminisce, tell stories of festivals-past in Detroit Lakes

Hundreds of attendees stopped by Bucks Mill Brewery in Detroit Lakes on Saturday, Oct. 1, in search of a thirst-quenching celebration. During the inaugural Bucktober Fest event, many shared stories about what Oktoberfest means to them.

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Dana Wothe, of Frazee, Minn., pours a beer while wearing a dirndl, a traditional Bavarian dress, during Bucktober Fest, an Oktoberfest celebration held at Bucks Mill Brewery in Detroit Lakes on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — They came into the sound of polka music playing over the loudspeakers.

Pennants, flags and banners streamed from the rafters and highlighted a communally-festive atmosphere across the indoor, wooden landscape.

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Pennants and signage adorn Bucks Mill Brewery during Bucktober Fest, an Oktoberfest celebration.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Some wore normal weekend attire while others were fully adorned in traditional German and Bavarian dress with decorative stein accessories.

And, for a majority of the hundreds of attendees who stopped by Bucks Mill Brewery in Detroit Lakes on Saturday, they came thirsty.

Not only a literal thirst, but a figurative thirst for what Oktoberfest means to them and why they enjoy the holiday so much. The inaugural Bucktober Fest event on Saturday, Oct. 1, provided a space for those memories to breathe.

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"Oktoberfest to me means it's a time of harvest and celebration," said Chuck Fritz, co-owner of Bucks Mill Brewery. "The harvest is completed and now it's time to have fun and relax, and raise a glass."

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Chuck Fritz, co-owner of Bucks Mill Brewery, serves a beverage during Bucktober Fest, an Oktoberfest celebration held at Bucks Mill Brewery in Detroit Lakes on Oct. 1, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Fritz said, growing up in North Dakota, all of his relatives farmed.

"All of them did," he said. "You got the hay put up, you got all your crops in the bin, you got them to the elevator, you got them sold, and now, it's just, let's get ready for winter."

Fritz explained his family's lineage as "Germans from Russia" and many of his relatives embraced the idea of the German Longhouse .

"They had these long picnic tables they'd put out and we'd all sit there," he said.

Tom and Nancy Olson had differing definitions when they explained what the annual festival meant to each of them.

"I think of beer," said Nancy Olson. "I think of a lager."

Tom Olson said when he thinks about Oktoberfest his thoughts focus on pheasant hunting and the change of the seasons.

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Event attendees wearing traditional German and Bavarian dress smile while hoisting beer steins during Bucktober Fest.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"The colors," he said. "Have you seen the colors of the leaves on the trees? My gosh, the last three days, it's the best time of the year. October is the best time of the year."

Dressed in lederhosen, Chris Kaml, co-owner of Bucks Mill Brewery, said Oktoberfest to him means celebration and coming together.

"The joy of good times, telling stories, bratwurst and sauerkraut, and German lagers and big beer steins," said Kaml. "The original Oktoberfest in Munich started in 1810 and that's where it all started, and it's the biggest beer festival in the world, so we can't emulate that, but we can certainly gather and pretend like we're there."

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Chris Kaml, co-owner of Bucks Mill Brewery, explains the rules of Hammerschlagen during Bucktober Fest, an Oktoberfest celebration held at Bucks Mill Brewery in Detroit Lakes on Oct. 1, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Most importantly, Kaml said, he thinks of beer.

"Yeah, I just think of beer and people being together and having fun playing games, and telling stories, and eating good food, and drinking stein-worthy beers," he said. "It's community fun."

The Bucktober Fest event also featured Hammerschlagen, which pitted friends and family against one another in the unofficial hammer-meets-nail game of Oktoberfests across the world.

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Cindy Joerger, of Henning, Minn., plays Hammerschlagen during Bucktober Fest at Bucks Mill Brewery.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Multimedia News Lead Reporter
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