The San Juan Island’s Blaskapelle Oktoberfest Band

SJI’s Oktoberfest rolls out that big German-Austrian sound with the same lederhosen, but different owners

It’s not that lederhosen is particularly flattering, but the outfit is comfortable and airy.

Perhaps most important of all, it helps the San Juan Island’s Blaskapelle Oktoberfest Band get into character for the upcoming 17th annual Oktoberfest, Oct. 8, 5:30 – 10 p.m. San Juan Island Fairgrounds Pavillion.

“The lederhosen really make us look authentic,” said Starr, leader of the band and trumpet player. “And all the music is in German, so we don’t know what all the words mean, but we have a lot of fun with it.”

And this year the Chamber of Commerce is the proud owner of the band’s Bavarian leather trousers as well as the authentic German sheet music.

The outfits and music were purchased from Bill Van Alen’s widow Doris Van Alen by the chamber with contributions by the Inter Island Medical Guild, Kiwanis, the Lions Club and the Rotary Club.

Bill Van Alen, who died in 2002, was instrumental in starting the polka band and San Juan’s Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest started on October 17, 1810 in Munich, Germany after the wedding of Princess Theresa of Sachsen-Hildburghausen and Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria. The 40,000 party guests had such a good time that the event was repeated every year. Now Oktoberfest is celebrated all over the world as a “People’s Festival “ or “Volkfest.”

On the island, King’s Market will provide a traditional selection of Oktoberfest menu items including “brats,” German potato salad, schnitzel and more. There will also be locally made Apple Strudel assorted beers and local wines.

And or course there will be the band.

“We purchased the lederhosen to ensure this event could carry forward,” said Peggy Burton, events and communications coordinator for the chamber. “They are valuable, historical and collectable items important to the community.”

Burton said its unusual for the chamber to purchase clothing, but because Oktoberfest benefits local service clubs and non-profit organizations, the outfits, which are essential to the event, in turn help to enrich the community. Imagine a polka band wearing suits and ties, it wouldn’t work.

Starr has dusted off the German sheet music and band practice has begun.

“There are over fifty songs to choose from,” said Starr. “So we mix it up every year.”

In a few weeks, the band will don their collared shirts, white knee socks, red handkerchiefs and, of course lederhosen. They’ll play your favorite polkas and, of course, the famous chicken dance.

“It’s a kick,” said Starr. “The music is quite a challenge and our 14 members make that big German-Austrian sound. My ears are still ringing from our first rehearsal.”