There was a time when finding a German-style good time meant taking a trip to Milwaukee or Munich. Now it’s a one-hour drive from Charlotte, N.C.
Hickory, N.C., was long on the radar as home to the Old German Schnitzel House, voted for several years the best German restaurant in America. While it has closed, the proprietors now operate a catering bakery that sells breads, tortes and strudels via its still-active Facebook page.
What has truly flourished is the city’s Oktoberfest - the weekend of Oct. 9-11 this year – which has become Hickory’s major public event over a 30-year run. It now encompasses about eight downtown blocks centered on Union Square, holding 10 festival areas and five stages.
Food vendors include those selling bratwurst and Bavarian pastries. The festival features the likes of the Foothills Oompah Band and Bob Wilusz, who roams the festival playing the accordion.
Seasonality lends a hand: The event is always held the second weekend of October, when fall is arriving in this area but temperatures are still warm enough to stage an outdoor beer garden. Oktoberfest usually has a three-day attendance topping 100,000.
The appeal isn’t limited to attractions and activities that mesh with the suds-and-sauerkraut theme. There are commercial vendors selling everything from apples to jewelry, as well as juried artisans displaying and selling their craftwork. There’s also a kids’ area and a kids’ stage, too, while free outdoor entertainment ranges from folk to rock to reggae.
If you go
What | Oktoberfest
Where | Downtown Hickory, N.C., an hour from Charlotte, N.C.
When | Oct. 10-12
Cost | Free
Contact | 828-322-1121, www.hickoryoktoberfest.com