Mountain High

Oktoberfest in Big Bear

This time of year, 65-year-old Bonnie Kelso spends her weekends looking for the next Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest queen amid crowds of women in cleavage-baring dirndls and men in knee-high socks.

 Kelso herself won the crown—and set a world record—in 1974 when she lugged 21 one-liter steins, or 105 pounds, and she hasn’t missed an Oktoberfest since. This year, she joined more than 20,000 annual attendees hailing from as far as Wisconsin and Canada at the festival, which runs through Oct. 29.

By day, the festival is family friendly; it gets rowdier after 6 p.m. on Saturdays when Jagermeister happy hour begins. The Die Mainfloesser Band, flown in from northern Bavaria, and the Express Band of Southern California play a mix of traditional oompah and Top 40 hits, with a periodic chicken dance drawing hundreds of arm-flapping beer drinkers to the floor.

Outside the main hall, enjoy brews in the outdoor beer gardens under a starry sky unpolluted by neon lights.

“Smell the pine air,” Kelso says. “You can’t beat it up here.”

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They could’ve slept in. They could’ve stayed in that pre-2006 slumber, in which their taxes paid for their communities to be cleaned and maintained. Because that’s what tax-funded agencies are for, right? Instead, more than 70 volunteers got up on Saturday morning, Sept. 24, and came to their neighborhood park in Aliante to pick up trash, wash the picnic benches, trim shrubs and paint the curbs. Kids wore work gloves and civic smiles; the smell of paint mixed with the smell of fresh-cut grass.

DTLV

RunRebs