Oregon’s Alpenfest Wallowa Valley

Enterprise, Joseph, and Wallowa Lake Last weekend in September www.oregonalpenfest.blogspot.com

The only Swiss-Bavarian festival in the Western United States, Oregon’s Alpenfest is a joyous, lively, and colorful celebration of the unique cultures of the Alps, and the beautiful mountain towns of Joseph and Enterprise serve perfectly for such a festival. Occupying a verdant, bucolic highland valley at the foot of the snow-capped ramparts of the rugged Wallowa Mountains in Northeast Oregon, these sun-drenched communities and the surrounding region comprise what is aptly nicknamed “Oregon’s Little Switzerland.”

Oregon’s Alpenfest Wallowa Valley Photo Gallery

This weekend-long family-oriented event features ongoing performances by talented musicians and dancers who come to Oregon’s Alpenfest from near and far. Attendees marvel at the amazing alphorns—traditional wooden horns, first used hundreds of years ago, that range from ten to more than thirteen feet long. These conically bored hollow tubes are made from wood strips, usually spruce, and bound with birch bark or cane. Accordion players also mesmerize the crowds; alpine bands, renowned yodelers, and remarkably adept folk dancers recall the grandest performing traditions of the cultures emanating from Europe’s most prominent mountains.

Oregon’s Alpenfest kicks off on Thursday afternoon in Downtown Enterprise with the Main Street Procession and Opening Ceremony— the first of numerous opportunities to enjoy the alphorn specialists, accordionists, and master Swiss yodelers. Right afterward, events move to Terminal Gravity Brewery—the award-winning craft ale producer that opened its doors in Enterprise in 1997—for the ceremonial tapping of the first keg of Terminal Gravity Alpenfest beer, with tastes offered for a modest donation and full glasses and meals also available.

Friday ushers in activities and performances at the de facto festival headquarters, the rustic, historic Edelweiss Inn at Wallowa Lake, just outside of Joseph, beginning with the Alpine Breakfast (8 am to noon). The Alpine Fair—featuring art, craft, and food vendors—begins at noon outside the inn and continues into early evening, running all three days of the weekend.

The fair not only highlights many local artisans selling their wares but also features artisan-made bratwurst and sauerkraut, plus wine and beer. Inside the Edelweiss Inn, the Alpenshow begins midday and runs into the night Friday and Saturday, presenting a litany of performances from dancers, yodelers, and musicians—including alphornists—all bedecked in traditional costume. In case you need to brush up on your polka and waltz steps, free lessons are offered by championship polka dancers twice a day. A highlight of the Alpenshow is the full bratwurst meal, served up at a modest price in addition to the entry fee to the show. Alluring Downtown Joseph, with its myriad galleries, restaurants, and shops, also hosts visiting accordionists on Main Street.

Oregon’s Alpenfest is unique— while Oktoberfest celebrations are held at numerous venues throughout Oregon and the Northwest, there’s only one Alpenfest, and the venue couldn’t be more inspiring— especially for visitors lucky enough to find the high crags of the Wallowas dusted with autumn’s first snow.

The dance hall comes alive with color and motion during Oregon’s Alpenfest.

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