After having a ho-hum time at the El Cajon Oktoberfest the previous weekend, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the La Mesa Oktoberfest.
Well, the second I got off the trolley, I could tell it would be a more lively experience.
For starters, it’s right at the trolley station. El Cajon’s is a couple miles away from it and there is no complimentary shuttle. And then there’s the vibe. La Mesa was buzzing with it on a Friday night (granted, I went to El Cajon on a slow Sunday afternoon and not a Friday or Saturday night).
The entrance is along the main street of bars and restaurants with tons of vendor tents. There’s a lot of kids and strollers but us single people instinctively know to weave our way through this and find the beer.
There are three beer-drinking locations at La Mesa Oktoberfest. I passed by the craft beer one because it looked like a small hang-out area and not one that’s really suitable for singles. The one on Palm Avenue seemed to be mostly for families and couples and apparently you have to be seated to enter it.
But that didn’t matter because after walking around the grounds I found the Hofbrauhaus beer garden and it was rocking. This is where the single people go to party and it was a party.
Cheap Tricked was on the stage with a David Lee Roth look-alike lead singer when I arrived and set the stage for the night. I was revved up and ready to party.
As the evening turned into nighttime, the event really started rocking when the 90s band the Bayside High 90s Band took the stage.
The band – and its attractive blonde lead singer – immediately had the crowd jumping up and down and singing to the songs of Brittany Spears, No Doubt’s I’m Just A Girl and other fun “let’s party songs.” The music had nothing to do with Oktoberfest except that it created a true party scene and that in itself is Oktoberfest in a nutshell.
This scene was repeated on Sunday afternoon/early evening with an oompha band followed the the Journey tribute band Journeymen which, with its powerful-voiced lead singer. sounded pretty close to the real thing. Needless to say, this pumped up the crowd and brought in more people who seemed to suddenly appear out of nowhere.
The crowd was mostly mid-20s to mid-40s with enough singles to keep you going back to the beer stations to build up some of that liquid courage.
Which, by the way, you’ll get a refill ($9 and $10) a lot quicker by going to the left side of the tent rather than the long row along the back side of the garden, which was five-to-10 deep with beer-seeking people. There’s even a portable bar there, rolled in by Anheuser-Busch.
The wait for the bathrooms is also a lot shorter on that side of the garden.
There is a large area under a tent with long picnic tables occupied mostly families and couples – and pyramids of empty beer cups – and an under-the-sun-and-stars open spot with a large stage. This is where you will find the bands and the majority of the singles.
La Mesa Oktoberfest is free (El Cajon is $15 on weekends, $5 on Sundays) tho there is a small $5 charge to access the beer gardens and you get a stamp which is good for all three of them.
My only questions are why it closes so early – 10 p.m., on Friday and Saturday nights – and why it only lasts for three days. As much time and effort as it takes to put it on I would think it would last for at least two weeks. Heck, why not three or even four?
La Mesa Oktoberfest Photos