Beer, Bavarian food, music and dance at Deming Oktoberfest

The Polkatones play Oct. 9 and 10 for Oktoberfest at the Deming Logging Showgrounds.
The Polkatones play Oct. 9 and 10 for Oktoberfest at the Deming Logging Showgrounds. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The Deming Logging Show’s 33rd annual Oktoberfest, taking place Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9 and 10, at the showgrounds at 3295 Cedarville Road, near Nugents Corner, is patterned after the festivals held in Germany, says Byron White, one of the organizers and a member of The Polkatones, who have played at the event for years.

White says the local event started in 1983 as a fundraiser for busted-up loggers. Oktoberfest features Bavarian food; German-style bands and dancers; beer, wine and hard cider; and dancing on a large, cushioned hardwood floor. A highlight is the blowing of the 11-foot Swiss alpine horns, and the horn-blowing contest that follows, a crowd favorite.

The event starts at noon Friday and Saturday with the opening of the beer garden and dance hall. Bavarian food is available throughout the day and evening.

Sylvia’s German Variety Band performs from 1 to 6 p.m. each day. White says the polka band provides great danceable music, playing old-time polkas, waltzes and plenty of two-steps and swing tunes. Evening entertainment starts at 7 p.m. with The Polkatones, the Tirolean Dancers, and more music by the Swiss alpine horns.

The Tirolean Dancers, who have performed for nearly 40 years, wear traditional costumes (lederhosen, dirndls and meiders) and provide high-spirited traditional Bavarian and German music.

The Polkatones consist of eight musicians whose repertoire ranges from “Oom-Pa-Pa” to “Louie Louie” and, of course, the famous Chicken Dance, says White, who plays baritone horn and trumpet.

The group began in 1975. Al Schwend had long dreamed of starting a band like his father’s band in Switzerland. Schwend came to Tillamook, Ore., at age 2 as an immigrant from Switzerland.

The group started with three members; Al Schwend, his daughter Linda White Schwend, and Joan Blaser, the daughter of a next-door dairy farmer who also immigrated from Switzerland. While at college Linda met her husband, Byron White, also from Tillamook. He joined the band later. As the years went by, piano player JoDee Etcheberry also joined.

In 1977, Linda and Byron moved to Bellingham. Daughter Kristy White was born in 1986, followed by her sister, Stacy White, two years later. The girls spent many hours sleeping in the accordion case on the back of stage while the band performed, their father says. When the girls became older they started performing on stage, singing a few simple songs.

While in middle school, Kristy started playing the saxophone and Stacy started playing the trumpet. But before they could perform in the band Linda’s father, Al Schwend, died in 1997.

Current band members, in addition to Byron White, Linda White on accordion, Kristy White on sax and Paul Johnson on drums, all from Whatcom County. Other members, from Oregon, are Blaser on accordion, Stacy White on trumpet, Everett Barr (a graduate of Bellingham High School and Western Washington University) on tuba; and Etcheberry. Others musicians join the band on occasion.

The band is celebrating more than 40 years playing festivals in the Northwest, including Oktoberfests in Leavenworth; Mount Angel, Ore.; Sandy Oktoberfest in Oregon; and Ryptoberfest in Spokane.

Deming Oktoberfest

When: Noon to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9-10

Where: Deming Logging Showgrounds, 3295 Cedarville Road

Cost: $10 advance, $13 at the door; tickets at Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism, 904 Potter St., or call 360-592-3051 or 360-592-0976. Tickets include a beer stein.

Details: Ages 21 and older only, free RV parking and hookups available for $15 a day.