Walking past the Queen’s Park Recs and seeing the massive Big Top Tent, my first thought was that the Circus had come to town. In a way, I suppose, it kind of has.
Walking into the monstrous tent for the first time is a surreal experience. The cavernous space is packed with rows and rows of benches, that were mostly empty when I was there, but will no doubt be drenched from many a sloshing stein over the course of the weekend. The sheer size of the space meant that the healthy numbers of people that were there were completely dwarfed by the surrounding emptiness, making the whole experience seem like the first awkward hour of a school disco when no one has shown up yet. I really can’t stress enough how huge this tent is. It seems that the good folks at Glasgow Oktoberfest anticipate the entirety of the Southside to show up. I mean they’ve got the room; it’s like a canvas St Peters.
On the stage, revellers were kept entertained by a DJ playing the old wedding band favourites followed by a German electronic trio that pumped out some intensely upbeat Europop. The cheesiness that oozed from the speakers certainly struck a note with the crowd. Throughout every song, a small yet passionate group of what I can only assume were teachers celebrating half term were up dancing away to the thumping bass. The band even managed to get a sing-song going amongst the rest of the more reserved members of the audience complete with stein-slapping on the tables and some terribly pronounced German lyrics. The highlights were undoubtedly the band’s cover of 99 Red Balloons followed by a quasi-techno version of Sweet Caroline which everyone sang along to with the usual gusto associated with Glaswegian crowds.
The event offers table service which is essential to avoid the half mile walk to the bar at the other end of the tent, however the token-based system of payment-which is a great, time-saving idea in theory- could potentially cause issues with a larger, more boisterous crowd. My advice would be to buy tokens at the desk before you settle down in your seat as it will certainly cool your frustration later. The bar itself was organised, quick and the servers were very friendly and attentive. Truth be told, all the staff that I spoke to were very friendly and accommodating…even managed to convince the door stewards to keep an eye on my bike. Somehow, I think that conversation would have gone slightly differently if I tried to park it outside the Shed (Extra points to the doorman wearing a ludicrously huge fake Bavarian moustache).
Speaking of bars, the whole reason I was there was to sample the food and the booze. Though not the cheapest, the ‘Festbeer’ goes down a treat: quaffable, not too heavy with a nice malty aftertaste. The pageantry of having it served in a two-pint stein certainly added to the overall effect. I was somewhat underwhelmed with the food (I had the bratwurst), a basic plate that seemed to be quite expensive for what I was offered. However, as this is a festival dedicated to the sole act of consuming beer, the food is more than adequate to line the stomachs. Also, it must be noted that the giant pretzels on offer were as tasty as they looked.
This is certainly not an event for people looking to soak up authentic Bavarian culture. Rather, it feels like a bizarre combination between T in the Park, and your aunt’s 60th birthday down the bowling club. Though not the cheapest and certainly not the most extravagant of affairs, there is a definite charm to the proceedings. The friendliness of the staff, the plentiful supplies of beer and the cheesy yet surprisingly captivating tunes blasting out of the PA makes this an ideal night out for Southside party-goers and a perfect surprise plan that you can spring on your co-workers. Finally, it is not every day that an event like this takes place at the Recs. Yes it's a wee bit rough around the edges, but I guarantee you there is nowhere else right now in the Southside that you can witness the sight of a fully-grown man dressed in full lederhosen try to leapfrog his mate on the dance floor, botch it, and face plant spectacularly in the mud. Tremendous effort. Prost!
Glasgow Oktoberfest will be on at the Queen’s Park Recreation Ground Friday 19th October (16:00 - 23:00), Saturday Afternoon - 20th October (11:00 - 16:30), Saturday Evening - 20th October (17:30 - 23:00) and Sunday 21st October (12:30 - 19:30).