Oktoberfest – 50th Anniversary

Celebrating 50 Years of Love

A Simple Act of Love Started

An Iconic Big Bear Tradition 50 Years Ago

Hans and Erika Bandows, both German immigrants, first came to Big Bear Lake 50 years ago when they purchased the Wawona Lodge on Big Bear Blvd., which is now the Wolf Creek Lodge.
After a year in business, they came up with a kindhearted idea to show their gratitude for their cherished guests, as well as their newly acquired friends in Big Bear. The concept was created straight from their hearts and based on a long-standing German tradition. They wanted to share their love by putting together a friendly gathering for about 100 guests in October that they simply called . . . Oktoberfest. It was a tradition Hans and Erika had experienced their entire lives in Germany, but to the Big Bear locals and their visiting patrons this was something completely different. This thank-you party served authentic home-cooked German food such as bratwurst, sauerkraut and German-style potato salad. Erika played polka music on her accordion, and a friend accompanied her on a old upright piano that they pulled out from one of the cabins. The music and merry making continued long into the crisp fall night with smiles lit by a bonfire. Laughter and sing-a-longs filled the evening air and toasts with good German beer warmed their spirits. Little did Hans and Erika know on that magical fall evening a simple act of love would start a tradition in Big Bear that has continued on for 50 years.

In later years, when asked why they put on this one-of-a-kind party for their guests and friends, Hans smiled, with a twinkle in his eye and said, “It simply came from love. It was our way of showing our gratitude for our new community and our guests. We wanted to give them something special, something they would remember, and sure enough they loved it!”

Can you believe it was 50 years ago when this fabulous story began?

The humble beginnings that originated in 1970 was created from Hans and Erika’s hearts, and each and every year thereafter this annual celebration has been nurtured, molded and shaped by one thing, and that of course is a labor love.

Hans added, “The Oktoberfest spirit fills my heart when I see guests who return year after year, and now sometimes with third generations. It’s amazing how many friends we’ve made over the years.”

The Beatles single ‘All You Need Is Love’ was an inspirational song that helped shape the Summer of Love in 1967. This Beatles’ tune sums up what Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest’s founding principles are based on. In a way, the Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest is like a best friend’s hug . . . warm, inviting and always there when you need it.





Watch “All you Need is Love” Video

Celebrating 50 Years of Love

This is why we’re happy to present this year’s Oktoberfest celebration as
“Celebrating 50 Years of Love.” It’s the kind of love we see when our guests’ faces light up when they hear those first three chords of the Chicken Dance.
It’s the love of being around friends and family and the joys of being surrounded by countless pine trees and fresh mountain air. The Big Bear Oktoberfest setting can have a magical affect on people from the fall breezes carrying the smells of sizzling brats on the grill, to the smiles on friends and families faces after a “Ein Prosit!”

This year presents a unique occasion given our current circumstances and being our 50th Anniversary. After looking at everything long and hard for the past few months, it was Hans and Erika’s daughter Monica who realized we have a once in a lifetime opportunity, to strip away the clutter and go back in time to re-create that magical night 50 years ago that started Big Bear Lake’s first Oktoberfest. Like her parents, Monica believes, right now, the world could use a barrel full of love.


Prepared for a Safe & Healthy Environment 

The good news is when we’re not hosting Oktoberfest, the Oktoberfest grounds transform into Wyatt’s Grill and Saloon throughout the rest of the year, which means we’re already prepared to present a safe and healthy environment by following necessary CDC guidelines. This year’s Oktoberfest will take place outdoors under a canopy of evergreens and high mountain skies. Tables will be set up restaurant-style that will be safely distanced from one another. Of course we will provide plenty of entertainment that you can enjoy with family and friends from the comfort of your reserved seat. The setting will include more table service for food and beverage orders, continuous live music and DJs spinning everything from traditional Bavarian tunes to today’s favorite hits, country favs, rock anthems, and a few surprises. We not only plan to fill your steins full of beer, but we plan to fill your hearts with good cheer! There will be tableside cheers and dances, social-distance contests, campfire-type stories, lots of laughter, and an overall Spirit of Love.

Journey with us as we open the next chapter to this incredible story. We thank you for your continued support and we appreciate you being part of the story! Thank you and God bless!

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