Seeing as Villa General Belgrano, a small town in the province of Córdoba, was founded by two Germans just over 80 years ago, it makes perfect sense that there’s an annual beer festival to celebrate Bavarian heritage. In fact the first Oktoberfest in Munich was held in 1810, the same year that Argentina gained independence.
It’s easy to see why they set up new lives there: the Alpinesque valley-based settlement which around 6,000 residents now call home, receives 300 days of sun a year and is agriculturally rich.
Those pioneering footsteps were quickly followed up by Austrian, Swiss and Hungarian immigrants keen to move to a similar central-European looking landscape, and these new landowners adapted quickly, raising families and continuing to observe their own traditions.
Although on the surface this may appear to be an alcohol-fuelled occasion — indeed it is the third-most important Oktoberfest in the world after Munich and Blumenau in Brazil, it is mainly an opportunity for the local communities to get together, don their regional costume and celebrate their heritage. Expect dancing and merry-making from orchestras and troupes from Poland, Armenia, Palestine as well as Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the Ukraine. Not to be missed is the Ballet Kolomeia, a group of Ukrainian dancers who squat on the floor then leap onto their fellow dancer’s shoulders, maintaining perfect balance.
The Argentine version of the beer festival is now in its 46th year, and events and the official opening takes place this Friday, October 2. The first day will include music and dance as well the inauguration of the national festival (see below).
Traditional German fare will naturally be served up, so get ready to tuck into Frankfurt sausages, smoked pork ribs and sauerkraut, followed up by Black Forest cake.
Okay, don’t be fooled by dances and cuisine — it is all about the alcohol, which is exactly why my flatmates and I are heading north for the second, busier weekend. An important tip from Get Out! editor and old Oktoberfest hand Pablo Toledo: “Take your own beer glass, otherwise you’ll pay through the nose for the official mug. A beer’s a beer, after all.” Should you be tempted into purchasing one as a souvenir, don’t forget that size matters. The bigger the mug obviously means larger quantities of alcohol are poured in each time you top up therefore more pesos are splurged.
A pleasing 25 degrees is predicted this opening weekend, and although it’s a touch early to predict how the weather will be treating revellers next weekend, spring is here and the hills will be alive with the sound of music and clinking glasses for the next 12 days.
Day 1 of Oktoberfest: October 2
2pm The Parque Cervecero beer park opens. Featuring central European music throughout the course of the day.
6pm Adolfo Meza from Paraguay.
6.40pm Las Majas from Spain.
7.15pm Ballet Kolomeia from the Ukraine.
7.55pm Dance Centre from Ireland.
8.15pm Parades in the main streets held by invited delegations: Monje Negro, Salchichardos, Aldeanos, Carrozas, Orquesta, Oktoberfest Argentina Queen 2008 and National Beer Festival Queen candidates for the 46th Oktoberfest Argentina.
9pm Die Biermusikanten Orchestra (central European music).
9.10pm. Official inauguration.
9.40pm Central European Enzian Body of Dance.
10.10pm Die Biermusikanten Orchestra (central European music).
Where & when: 46th National Beer Festival, Villa General Belgano, Córdoba province. Friday 2, Saturday 3, Sunday 4, $20 per person per day. Entrance is free during the week. Friday 9, Saturday 10, Sunday 11, $30 per person per day. Visit www.elsitiodelavilla.com/oktoberfest