Sacramento’s Oldest Authentic German Celebration Brings Folks Together

Prost! A participant in Turn Verein’s Oktoberfest 2017 swigs from a stein of beer



For more than 200 years, the original Oktoberfest in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, has held the reputation of being the world’s largest beer festival and funfair celebrated throughout that country. For the past 50 years, the volunteers at the Sacramento Turn Verein, the city’s oldest German cultural center and athletic club, have invited guests young and old, German and American, to revel in the festivities that make Oktoberfest an experience to remember, no matter how many steins of beer are consumed.

Inside the 93-year-old brick building, the Sacramento Turn Verein’s 51st annual Oktoberfest will host thousands of attendees; provide guests with countless pints of German-imported beer by Hacker-Pschorr, Weihenstephaner, and Paulaner; and serve delicious and traditional German fare. Regulars and newcomers alike may choose from smoked bratwurst and currywurst, large pretzels, ham hocks, and leberkäse (a specialty food made from corned beef, pork, and bacon that’s ground fine and baked as a loaf). This will all keep folks well fed throughout the evening.

Beer taps at the Turn Verein biergarten


For Shawn Peter, a guide with the Downtown Sacramento Partnership who often takes residents on historic excursions to visit the city’s oldest and most interesting locations, Turn Verein throws the best party in town. But Peter, whose own parents immigrated to America from Germany before he was born, emphasizes that the history behind Oktoberfest should not be forgotten.

“Oktoberfest, the real one in Munich, started as a wedding celebration,” says Peter, whose last trip to a German Oktoberfest was in 2016. “King Ludwig I married a common girl, someone out of his class, which was a big no-no, and instead of inviting royalty, he invited the citizens of Munich to the wedding. At the original Oktoberfest, the entertainment was horse racing, beer, and food.”

Emily Via, director of Sacramento’s longest-running Oktoberfest event, says her first introduction to the Turn Verein festival was when she was 12 years old, and now she enjoys watching the camaraderie among the attendees and their children whom she sees year after year.

The STV Alpentänzer Schuhplattlers kick up their heels for 2017 Oktoberfest attendees

“We love to bring these people together. When you’ve got little kids in dirndls running around on the dance floor, and moms holding babies dancing, and grandpas whirling around their 13-year-old granddaughters, it’s just great,” Via says. “I don’t know of any other place like that, and we hope to be a community center for those who are interested in German or Bavarian culture.”

No Oktoberfest celebration would be complete without live Bavarian music, so each year, Turn Verein invites The Gruber Family Band and the band Alpine to join in the revelry. Via says attendees will find music indoors, upstairs, and even outdoors, so they can experience something different no matter where they find themselves during the two-day festival.

“There’s a German word, heimat, which is this feeling of familiarity and like a home away from home. So if you have this experience in Germany or Bavaria or Austria, and you enjoyed that experience, the feeling that you would have when you come to Sacramento Turn Verein would be one of heimat,” Via says. “I think we genuinely achieve that when people say, ‘I used to have this sausage!’ or ‘I used to drink this beer, and it was so good. I’ve never found anything like that before!’ I think we do Oktoberfest properly.”

Sacramento Turn Verein’s 51st annual Oktoberfest
3349 J Street, Sacramento • 916-442-7360
Oct. 12 – 13
6 p.m. – midnight Fri., 3 p.m. – 12 a.m. Sat.
Admission is $20 adults, $5 children ages 6 to 12 years old; children 5 years and younger are free. Food and beer tickets sold separately indoors.