Oktoberfest…new mexico style


The first time I experienced Red River, NM, was at the end of a drive around the Enchanted Circle. It was the last stop before returning to Questa, the town outside of Taos where we were based for three weeks (before we had to head out because of a forecasted winter storm and near record cold temps). I had no big expectations, as I was primarily interested in the scenery on the drive. And by the time we got to Red River, the scenery had become majestic. We moved from a broad valley to a narrow passageway between towering and rocky peaks, and into a ski town with an identity crisis. Red River, it seems, cannot make up its mind as to whether it is Wild West tourist town or Bavarian ski village. I loved it, but especially its Bavarian persona. It is always nostalgic for me to find myself in a town in the US settled by Germans. The Bavarian flair, with hotels that are always named Auslander, takes me back to the home of my heart: Garmisch-Partenkirchen. No matter where I am or what I am doing, Garmisch will always be special. It still holds people near and dear to me. People with whom neither time nor distance can erase the friendship we share. Each time I return, I feel I am home again, welcomed into the fold as if no time has passed. And the town itself, with the mountains surrounding it, opens its arms as well. I relax into my surroundings every time. I often fantasize a return to living there, as it was also a simple life, full of good people, nature, and travel. 

Thus, I have an affinity for Bavarian-themed towns. They make me smile. This is what Red River did for me when I first saw it, especially since it was also a ski town with a form and color familiar to me. That first visit, we made our way into the Red River Brewing Company and found ourselves sitting outside by a warm fire eating a massive bowl of edamame, drinking a beer, and people watching. And planning to return to this town for their Oktoberfest the following weekend.

I have been to a few Oktoberfest celebrations here in the US and enjoy seeing how each of them, though all celebrating a German tradition, reflect the character of the town holding them. This one was no different. It had the obligatory Oompa band, whose leader spoke German and English. It had beer. And I even tasted a local gluhwein, though it’s still a bit early for this winter drink. Most of the beer here was locally or regionally brewed. You will not find Miller Lite at the beer stands in Red River. I had a taste of one of the best weissbiers I’ve had outside of Germany, along with two really good Oktoberfest beers (entry to the fest came with six beer/wine tastings).  All of this was great. It was the stuff that makes an Oktoberfest no matter where you are. 

Then, there is the local flair that makes each Oktoberfest its own experience. Here, there were plenty of lederhosen and dirndls to be seen, for sure. But often with a twist. Like cowboy boots paired with a dirndl:

the best thing

But…the best part of this Oktoberfest? The best part was the people. The happy spirit of people enjoying a beautiful fall day, surrounded by mountains with the aspens changing color, sunny skies, and temperatures warm enough to shed the coat. The stalls sold local goods. As such, they were not German, but, rather, mostly of Native American and Mexican traditions. The mix of cultures was impressive. It was also moving. It was as it should be, everywhere and all the time. Here, no one cared the color of your skin or where you came from. Here, everyone greeted others with a smile and a laugh over some shared comment (and even offers to share a drink). Here, there was a carefree spirit and a pleasure in the company of others. It made this Oktoberfest one to remember. It was a special event given our current atmosphere. It was evidence that when we drop our guards and shed our preconceived notions of “other,” we can still be kind to one another, still see the humanness of the other, and still take joy in shared experiences. For an afternoon, all was right with the world in this little corner of New Mexico.

Prost, y’all!

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