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If It's October, It Must Be Oktoberfest in San Diego

La Mesa Oktoberfest is one of the biggest events around.

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If March means we all claim a bit of Irish heritage in spirit, then October means we claim a bit of Germany as well. And our love of bratwurst, beer and polka music is reflected in the number of popular Oktoberfest celebrations throughout San Diego County. But there's no question that the granddaddy of Oktoberfests is the celebration in La Mesa's downtown village.

If you've never been to an Oktoberfest, then the La Mesa event is a great place to start: the smell of bratwurst and other German food, the sound of polka music (don't forget to participate in the Chicken Dance!), the refreshing cool beer, and lots of arts, crafts and family activities. Typically, over 200,000 people attend the weekend event, so it must be fun, right?

La Mesa's 39th Annual Oktoberfest kicks off at 11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 and runs through the weekend, ending on Sunday, Oct. 7 at 5 p.m.

Patterned after the world-famous Munich Oktoberfest, La Mesa's version is essentially a giant block party in the downtown village area. The streets are closed off to vehicles, and in their place, more than 400 booths are set up, selling an assortment of high-quality arts and crafts, commercial items and food. Admission to the general festival is free.

Nearby, a large parking lot is transformed into a German-style Lowenbrau Beer Garden. Inside you will find spirited oom-pah-pah bands, costumed folk dancers performing traditional waltzes and polkas, and dance floors for adults and kids so everybody can join the fun. If you get hungry after performing the "chicken dance," there's plenty of grilled bratwurst, pretzels, soda and beer on tap. Beer sales will be halted at 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

In the evenings the Oom Pah bands step aside to some contemporary music. The entertainment lineup will be posted here as soon as the artists are confirmed.

But parking can be tricky, since area streets are closed off. But your best bet is to ride the Trolley (the new Green Line makes it even easier from the Mission Valley area - take it to Grossmont Center and transfer to the Orange Line) - it'll take you to the middle of the event, at Spring St. and La Mesa Blvd.

Other 2012 Oktoberfests in San Diego County

Oct. 5,6,7 - El Cajon Oktoberfest
Held at the German American Club in El Cajon, featuring Guggenbach Buam, a band straight from Bavaria. Also a beer garden, German folk dancing, games and contests, crafts booths, a shooting gallery and authentic Bavarian food. Admission is $5 for those 21 and older. Admission is free for those in the military or younger than 21.

Oct. 6 - 30th annual Carlsbad Rotary Oktoberfest from noon to 10 p.m. at Holiday Park in Carlsbad.
The family event features German food, German music, dancing, and a host of children’s activities, including a pumpkin-decorating contest, facing painting, clowns, and much more. The pumpkin-decorating contest is for children 5-15 years old. Roger and the Villagers will play its traditional brand of polka music, including the beloved “Chicken Dance, from 5 to 10 p.m. A German dinner will be served from 1 to 8 p.m. The dinner includes two German sausages, German potatoes, cabbage and a roll. Tickets are $10

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