By Edie Schmierbach
---- — ST. PETER — Polkas will be playing, tap beer will be flowing and folks will turn out to celebrate St. Peter's German traditions at the third annual Oktoberfest, which starts tonight in the downtown lot near Grace Street and Highway 169.
This year, add watching a parade on a crisp fall day to the festival's other enjoyable features — like listening to tuba tunes outdoors — with a stein in hand.
Tonight's Test the Taps party is an added event for the festival. Gates open at 5 p.m. with Larry Novotny's One Man Tuba Band as entertainment. From 6-9 p.m., serious business will be conducted — checking on the taps to guarantee beer will flow freely throughout Oktoberfest.
Festmeister Tom Thorkelson will tap this year's kegs, lead the festival's three-block parade and make sure everyone is having a good time.
Finding someone with the credentials necessary to be the festival's figurehead was John Mayer's responsibility. He chose someone who was over a certain age, who has his name misspelled often by the media and who is familiar with leiderhosen. Most importantly, the festmeister had to have his wife's permission to participate.
"St. Peter's become a music town," Thorkelson said Monday. Minnesota Square Parks draws crowd for the Ambassadors Blues Fest and Rock Bend Folk Festival , there's always Irish tunes playing for St. Paddy's Day and a variety of concerts throughout the year — up and down the hill. This weekend, it's time for German songs to shine.
Friday's performers include the New Ulm Wendinger Band and the Riverbend Dutchmen take the stage Saturday afternoon.
The band Eagle River plays Friday evening and the Bockfest Boys and IV Play are slated Saturday.
Oktoberfest also features a Kid's Corner with family-friendly activities and bean bag and bocce ball contests. Food and beverage vendors will be on hand all three evenings of the festival. For the brave at heart and strong of stomach, there's a sauerkraut-eating contest Friday night.
The festival was initially a St. Peter Ambassadors' fundraiser. It's now embraced by the city's business community and organizations. Mayer said Oktoberfest proceeds may be used for various projects in town — the Minnesota Square Park pavillion and a war memorial for the town's veterans.
Mayer has been a main force behind the town's annual St. Patrick's Day party in March. He won't fret if the new Deutsch-flavored festival's popularity starts to rival the Irish celebration.
"I'm half-German," said Mayer, the owner of the Irish pub Patrick's.
Minnesota Valley Gem and Mineral Club meeting
MANKATO -- The Minnesota Valley Gem and Mineral Club will be holding its next meeting at 6:30 p.m. today in the meeting room at the Eagles Club, 708 N. Riverfront Drive.
The program will include show and tell where members will bring in a rock, gem or mineral find from the summer.
Visitors are welcome.
Mankato Area Lifelong Learners program
MANKATO -- The Mankato Area Lifelong Learners will present "Frac Sand Mining — Its Ultimate Use" from 2-4 p.m. today at the Snell Community Room, 1900 Madison Ave.
Mayo Clinic Health System offering grief seminar
MANKATO -- The Mayo Clinic Health System will present "Understanding Children's Grief," an educational seminar from 6-7:30 p.m. today at Christ the King Lutheran Church, 222 Pfau St.
The seminar is for parents, grandparents or any concerned adult interested in understanding children's grief. Presenters will describe some common emotional, physical, social and spiritual responses children have when dealing with loss.
The seminar is free but preregistration is required and accepted until the day of the event.
For more information or to register, call the hospice office at 507-385-2989.
Hanel hosting book signing in Waseca
WASECA — Rachael Hanel will hold a book signing 10-11:30 a.m. on Saturday at the Waseca Art Center, 200 State St.
Hanel is a Waseca native who penned a memoir, "We'll be the Last Ones to Let You Down," about her upbringing as the gravedigger's daughter.
For more information, call 507-835-1701.
Le Grand Bande and Chorus performance
ST. PETER -- Local nonprofit orchestra and chorus, Le Grand Bande and Chorus, will present its debut solo performance at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Bjorling Recital Hall at Gustavus Adolphus College, 800 West College Ave.
The musicians of Le Grand Bande and Chorus consist of students from Gustavus, members of the Mankato Symphony Orchestra and other musicians from the area.
The concert will feature an overture and symphony by Josef Haydn and a performance of George Fredic Handel's famous "Water Music."
Tickets are $10 and are available by emailing Legrandebandechorus@gmail.com.
The Great ArfWalk Festival
MANKATO -- The Great ArfWalk Festival will be kicking off at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Land of Memories Park.
The ArfWalk is a festival that includes live music, dog races, demonstrations, local art, crafts and food.
Celebrate Sound walk/run on Saturday
MANKATO -- The Celebrate Sound—Don't Walk in Silence 5-mile walk/run will be held at 9 a.m Saturday at the Sibley Park picnic area by the ball fields.
The fundraiser will promote hearing health issues and a looping induction system at the Senior Center.
Same-day registration is still available and begins at 8 a.m.
For more information, visit www.celebratesound.org/mankato.
If you go What St. Peter Oktoberfest 2013 Where Minnesota Square Park When • Gates open at 5 p.m. today, 4 p.m. on Friday, and noon on Saturday. • Sauerkraut eating contest is 7 p.m. Friday. • Oktoberfest Parade begins noon on Saturday on Third Street. More info Oktoberfest buttons cost $5, available at chamber office and from Ambassadors For more information, go to: www.stpeterambassadors.co or www.stpeterchamber.com.