By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Every year the city of Blumenau in the Southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina hosts its own Oktoberfest, celebrating German food, music, beer, culture and the area’s deep ancestral roots. In addition to Oktoberfest, the city’s German heritage can be witnessed year-round throughout the city from its intact colonial structures to its historically inspired buildings to its museums and additional festivals.
The most well known festival in Blumenau is Oktoberfest, this year running from October 8th to the 26th. Considered the biggest Oktoberfest celebration in South America and among the biggest in the world after the main festival held in Munich, Germany, the Oktoberfest de Blumenau alone annually attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists to the city during the month of October.
“I like to do all three festivals every year, if I can,” one Canadian tourist, who identified himself simply as “Bill” told The Rio Times, speaking about the Oktoberfest de Blumenau, the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest held yearly in Ontario, Canada and the main Oktoberfest, a sixteen-day event held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. “Oktoberfest is different in Brazil. It’s German-themed with a lot of lederhosen and things, but it’s still Brazilian. It’s interesting and a lot of fun.”
This year, the Oktoberfest de Blumenau began its 31st edition and as is tradition, festivities kicked off with an opening parade down the Blumenau’s historic Rua XV de Novembro (November 15th Street).
Originally known as “Wurstrasse” (Sausage Street), the Rua XV de Novembro stretches and curves 1,590 meters through the city. Marching down the street for the parade this year were over one hundred attractions, including live performances by German band Deggendorfer Stadmulsikaeten and Austrian band Bürgermeisterkapelle.
After the parade, many visitors and locals headed to the city’s Parque Vila Germânica (German Vila Park), a specially built area, open year-round, complete with replica German houses and buildings with additional pavilions where the majority of the festival takes place. Festival organizers estimate that over 19,000 visitors passed through Parque Vila Germânica during opening night alone this year.
Housed within the Parque Vila Germânica are multiple shops, restaurants, beer kiosks and live entertainment provided by both Brazilians groups and by German and International musicians. During Oktoberfest, attendees with steins and sausages in hand, fill the wooden benches and dancefloors inside the pavilions and stand outside to watch shows that include the Queen of the Oktoberfest contest, log-sawing contests and live musical entertainment complete with tubas and multiple accordions.
Entrance to the Parque Vila Germânica was free on opening night and will be again on Mondays during Oktoberfest and on closing night of the festival, October 26th. Entry on Tuesdays through Thursdays is R$10 and on Fridays and Saturdays during the festival the entry is R$25.
In addition to Oktoberfest, Blumenau has much more to offer visitors with over forty tourist attractions in all, and various festivals held throughout the year, including Dia do Turista Clubs de Caça e Tiro (Shooting and Hunting Clubs), Christmas and Easter.
The city was founded in 1850 as a Germany colony by a small group of immigrants lead by Dr. Hermann Blumenau . One of the city’s main tourist attractions, the Momento dos Imigrantes, proudly marks the point of arrival of the first seventeen immigrants to city.
The Praça Hercílio Luz (The Hercílo Luz Square), once a meeting place during the colonial days of the city, now hosts the National Volunteers Monument and the Museu da Cerveja (Beer Museum). The city is also now home to several artisanal breweries including, Eisenbahn, Das Bier, Beirland, and Wunder Beir. For interested visitors, beer tours are available.
Other attractions include the Relógio das Flores (The Flower Clock), one of only five electronic flowers clocks in Brazil and the Prefeitura Municipal de Blumenau (Blumenau’s City Hall), constructed in 1982 and inspired by buildings from the colonial period.
Additionally along Rua XV de Novembro, the Castelinho da XV, a structure built by Udo Schadrack in 1978 as a replica of the city hall of Michelstadt, is one of the most photographed parts of the city.
Another museum and point of interest is the Museu da Família Colonial complex. Located beside the Alameda Duque de Caxias, Rua das Palmeiras (Tree street), the area, in addition to the original colonial housing, includes a park, the Parque Horto-Botânico Edith Gaertner, where founder, Dr. Blumenau planted numerous species of fauna.
The Museu da Família Colonial complex was also once home to Dr. Blumenau’s original residence, a building that was sadly lost during a flood.
As Blumenau is positioned alongside the Itajaí-Açu river, floods have plagued the city throughout its history. It was a massive flood that lead to the original creation of the Oktoberfest in the city in 1984.
“You would think the festival is older,” said the Canadian tourist. “It’s well organized and the city is nice with friendly people. I think I would come back when it’s not Oktoberfest time. It’s great. Prost!”
See the official website here, to learn more about Oktoberfest de Blumenau. Those interested in traveling to Blumenau from Rio de Janeiro can get there by bus, car or partially by plane, as there is no airport in Blumenau. Check with travel agents and/or carriers to better plan your trip.