MT.ANGEL, Ore. – Mt. Angel is a town that celebrates beyond its size. With fewer than 4,000 year-round residents, you
only have to attend Oktoberfest (the largest west of the Mississippi and voted “One of the 10 Best in the World”) to know they specialize in hospitality.
Mt. Angel history
Originally settled in 1850, Mt. Angel’s present-day character wasn’t established until 1881 when the Rev. Fr. Adelheim Odermatt, O.S.B. arrived from Engelberg, Switzerland. He was looking for a place to establish a new Benedictine home in America. He found it on a hill the Indians called Tapalamaho (meaning “Mount of Communion”). After renaming it Mount Angel (which means Engelberg) he went on to establish Mount Angel Abbey and a school.
New among Mt. Angel’s old, is the Edelweiss Village Building and its 49-foot tall Glockenspiel Tower. Built to resemble a large chalet with numerous Alpine features, the building’s upper floors house 28 units of affordable senior housing: at street level there’s a bank, a restaurant and other retail space. To listen to the resonance of the bells and watch the hand-carved figures as they dance (daily at 11 am and 1, 4 and 7 pm) is to experience something special.
Oktoberfest and Wurstfest
Despite holding only two festivals a year – Oktoberfest is the third week in September and Wurstfest the second week end in February – Mt. Angel exudes a sense of festival year round. In 2009, Oktoberfest alone distributed more than $105,000 in grants to 48 worthy non-profit organizations in Mt Angel and surrounding communities and it didn’t include the nearly $700,000 earned by the nonprofit community groups that operated food booths. The people of Mt. Angel know how to turn a gala event into a helping hand.
“We held our first Wurstfest last year because we wanted to do something that made use of our Oktoberfest infrastructure and we thought having a winter festival centered on German sausage would be fun,” said Mary Grant, Mt. Angel chamber president and one of the owners of the Glockenspiel Restaurant. “The Wurstfest is the weekend before Ash Wednesday and the start of the austere Holy Season of Lent (Feb. 12 – 14, 2010) and everyone is invited to dust off their lederhosen, starch up their Bavarian dirndls and enjoy the ‘Best of the Wurst.’ There is nonstop music and it’s fun for the whole family.”
The polka dancer fountain Oktoberfest Joy.
Examples of working together go back to the day in 1910 when volunteers laid the cornerstone for St. Mary’s Parish Church, earned the money to restore it after the earthquake of 2003 and pitched in to build the glockenspiel. Even creating ‘Oktoberfest Joy’ (the polka dancer fountain in the center of town) with the late sculptor Jerry Joslin had a light side.
“We still laugh about what it took to get that fountain,” said Connie Lauzon, the Mt. Angel resident who first envisioned the fountain. “We raised the money but the bronze-maker looked to us to help him make the authentic Bavarian costumes for the dancers. Laden with bags of felt, a sewing machine, an ironing board, and one crew member’s 2-month-old baby, we looked like a scene from a slap-stick movie when we arrived at the posh Lake Oswego home of the artist. We brought three Bavarian hats along to make sure we had just the right one to hang on the boy’s hand. We shopped at Goodwill and rummaged things from our own closets to do it. But, its the kind of thing the people of Mt. Angel will do.”
For more information on visiting Mt. Angel, go online to www.mt.angelchamber.org.
– Jan Jackson © 2010