Thursday, October 18, 2012

Oktoberfest And Fall Fun

The Klub Haus - location of Oktoberfest
Madeline's face painting
The Bean Bag Toss
Last weekend was another fun-filled weekend of exploring.  As I previously mentioned in one of my prior posts, we had hoped to attend an Oktoberfest.  We chose not to attend an Oktoberfest earlier in the month but instead opted for a smaller fest this past weekend.  Saturday was a rainy day, but despite the weather we decided to head out to the St. Paul 12th Annual Oktoberfest.  Despite the fact that "St.Paul" was in the title of the festival, don't let that fool you.  The Oktoberfest wasn't exactly a city-wide huge fest, but rather a smaller festival.  Despite the small venue, the Oktoberfest was nicely attended. (I am noticing that this is more typical of the festivals here....unlike, WNY's Italian Fest, Peach Fest, Taste of Buffalo, etc). 

German Dancers
The Klub Haus was a hall of sorts.  On the 2nd floor they had set up some games for kids as well as some vendor tables.  I do have to say that this particular area of the festival was pretty lame, however the kids didn't seem to care.  Madeline was happy to get her face painted.  The face painting was actually sort of hysterical.  The girl who was doing the painting was concentrating so much on her "masterpiece".  She had actually started the face painting, stopped, cleaned of the paint and restarted.  The face painter was working in such a way that you would think she was painting the Mona Lisa.  Finally, the face painter was done with Madeline's face.  Two small lines near Madeline's eye.  Ummm....okay.  While we were all waiting for Madeline's face painting, Jonathan was happy to fling some bean bags around and I was thrilled that there was a Pampered Chef consultant there so I was able to replenish my supply of my favorite item, the mini-serving spatula.  On the lower floor of the hall there were a few more vendors as well as some food concessions.

Outside of the Klub Haus was a large tent.  There was German music, German dancers, beer sales and more food sales.  There was a nice crowd, however one thing that would've made the festival better would've been the encouragement of dancing by festival goers.  The entertainment was more for show vs participation, with the dance floor filled with demonstrations.  The encouragement of participation would've kicked up the festival a notch.

Dachshund Racing
The crowd participation, however was focused in a couple events that were scheduled outside of the tent. There were Dachshund (wiener dogs) races and bed races.  The crowd, albeit a fairly small crowd, was fun loving, good sports.  The Dachshunds competed in a straight-line race and hurdle race with the proud pet owners showering their pooches with kisses at the finish line.  The bed races (see video below) were groups of people that competed in a timed run of the group pushing a decorated bed down the street.  Ummm.....okay, whatever - but what a fun activity, and fun to watch too!

Madeline has one volume - LOUD!
David & Madeline waiting for Regatta
On Sunday, we headed to Stillwater, MN.  Stillwater is a pretty city on the St. Croix River.  For a mini geography lesson, the St. Croix River defines the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Stillwater sits on the St. Croix and its downtown area is adorable, with lots of little shops and cafes.  Stillwater's Harvest Fest was held on the river.  Following the pattern I have noticed in the festivals here, the Stillwater Harvest Fest had much potential.  It was a nice, family friendly festival.  The setting of the river on such a beautiful fall day was enjoyable yet, there were a few little tweaks that I would change if I were the event's organizer.

Pumpkin Regatta
Fish Pond
We arrived at the festival just in time to watch the regatta.  Here, a handful of participants competed in a race along the St. Croix River in a *huge* pumpkin.  After the good sported competition, we grabbed lunch at one of the food vendors.  We sat in one of the nearby tents to eat our (very late) lunch.  In the tent was a "Fishing Pond" for the kids and there was also a band playing live music.  After eating lunch, Madeline's "fishing" and allowing Jonathan to burn off some steam we decided to check out the area with various crafters and vendors. 

My little pumpkins
Let's hope they don't grow up fighting like cats & dogs!
Madeline look across the St. Croix at Wisconsin
Trying to bribe gulls to come back
We had arrived at the festival later in the day and had intended to stay until their pumpkin drop at 5pm (a HUGE pumpkin lifted with a crane and splattered down ala New Years Eve style).  We were leisurely with our visit but there just wasn't enough for us to do to stay that long.  So constructive criticism #1, a tighter schedule of events would encourage festival goers to stay longer to partake in each of the festival's events.  While we were lallygagging out of the festival we had the kids burn off some energy by running around in the grassy area along the river.  We saw a few sea gulls....and that struck me because I rarely see sea gulls in the parking lots of the shopping centers near my house.  Unlike the groups of gulls that would invade a Target, Tops or Wegmans lot back home, the "parking lot bird" here is the Canadian Goose.  And so, where I normally couldn't be bothered with a gull, that afternoon I had a soft spot for them and so we took a moment to feed the handful of gulls some of Jonathan's Goldfish Crackers.

As we headed across a huge lawn area, on our walk back to our car, David and I noticed a river-side bar/restaurant that was packed with people.  And here is constructive criticism #2.  If the tent area of the festival was moved into the large grass area that David & I had walked across (closer to the bar), the festival might even draw from some of those patrons.  Either that or move the festival up the road and make it more of a street festival, thus encouraging festival goers to meander in and out of the shops, possibly boosting sales in the shops.  Yet, all in all, although the festival could benefit from a few tweaks, the festival itself was pleasant.

Woo exciting, a flour mill historic site - Ha!
On the ride home, Jonathan fell asleep and Madeline was content to draw in her notebook.  Consequently, David and I decided to wander aimlessly and discover a new back way to get home.  We saw a couple road markers alerting us of a historic site ahead.  For the heck of it, we pulled in  to see a marker for a former flour mill.  What I found very interesting was the amount of care taken to alerting people of the relatively trivial historic site.  Not only was the marker well kept but there was a little pull-up parking lot that was well kept in addition to the road signage indicating that the site was nearing.  Sorry to say this but I am pretty sure that if a similar site was located in NY it would be buried over in weeds.

I enjoyed a wonderful weekend of exploring with the family.  I had a great time....too much fun, however, because I have been struggling to catch up on all my chores during the week.  Oh well, you know what they say, "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy"......or puts Mama in the loony bin!

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