Deutschland Comes to Whitefish

By Beacon Staff

The beer will be flowing, the brats will be grilling and the Bavarian pride will shine during the fourth annual Great Northwest Oktoberfest in downtown Whitefish’s Depot Park. The event starts on Thursday, Sept. 26, with a “Locals Night” and goes for two weekends, ending on Saturday Oct. 5.

Kevin Gartland, executive director of the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce, said the event has only grown in popularity since it started in 2010. Last year, nearly 8,000 people came to Depot Park for the event.

“It’s been a hit right out of the box and I think it’s only going to keep growing in popularity in the coming years,” Gartland said.

The event’s roots are in Munich, where a royal wedding was held more than 200 years ago and everyone in the city was invited. Now, the traditional German festival is celebrated around the world to mark the beginning of autumn. Gartland said the event is a perfect fit for Whitefish and helps bring people to town after the traditional tourist season has ended. The event features games and contests.

“This is the perfect type of event for our town because it’s a beer festival, but it’s not just that and so it appeals to many different groups,” Gartland said. “The target audience is anyone who is breathing.”

Besides lederhosen and pretzels, huge 20-ounce steins are offered to consume beer and as a keepsake. The traditional mugs are made by Tom Gilfillan’s Whitefish Pottery Studio and always sell out fast. This year, the studio has produced 300 steins featuring the event’s commemorative logo. Gilfillan said the event never disappoints.

“It’s an event you can go to more than once,” he said. “I like the fact that we get so many people from out of town. It’s gained a great reputation.”

The event takes place under the “Oktoberfest Bigtop” in Depot Park and admission is just $4 per day. It’s open on Sept. 26, 27 and 28 and Oct. 3, 4 and 5. The gates open at 5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 12 p.m. on Saturdays. It closes at 11 p.m. each night. For more information call (406) 862-3501 or visit

What Not To Miss At Oktoberfest:

Local’s Night – Sept. 26: Bring an ID showing that you live in the Flathead Valley and get in for free!

Family Day – Sept. 28: From noon to 4 p.m. there will be bonce houses, kid’s craft activities, face painting and a Kid’s Chicken Dance competition at 2:45 p.m.!

Waitress Races – Oct. 3: The Flathead Valley’s best waitresses will compete for a cash prize in a stein-holding, beer-totin’ contest. It’s fast, furious and fun to watch! The race starts at 7:45 p.m.

Pumpkin Patch – Oct. 5: The Children’s House Montessori School will be hosting its annual Pumpkin Patch Fundraiser, just outside the big top. Festivities go from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Senior’s Day – Oct. 5: People 60 years and older get in free until 5 p.m.

All Weekend – Each night features keg hurling, stein holding, log sawing and brat eating contests!

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