East County Nightlife: Dueling Oktoberfests

Your Patch guide to East County nightlife, Sept. 30-Oct. 2

This week’s column could be condensed into just one word, and it would be just as effective as the usual few hundred: Oktoberfest.  Really, what more needs to be said? 

For nearly four decades, East Countians have eagerly awaited the first weekend in October, when the streets of downtown La Mesa are closed down and then festooned with knick-knack booths, beer gardens and the wonderfully mingled scents of waffle cones and chicken kebabs.  Even though much has changed over the years—including the addition of carnival rides and a trolley to bring all those Other Countians onto our turf—the spirit has remained the same.  In fact, the pull of Oktoberfest is so pronounced, there is an unsurprising lack of conflicting events this weekend.

Except, of course, that other Oktoberfest.  You know, the one that came along years after La Mesa’s and touts itself as a “real German Oktoberfest.”  That’s quite an assertion to make, but before you turn your nose up and boycott El Cajon’s offering, at least note the differences in the two events. 

The El Cajon version is smaller (more intimate, you could say) and thus not crawling with the thick hordes of people that plague Downtown La Mesa’s streets.  Plus, the musical offerings in El Cajon will indeed be traditional German, unlike the rock bands blaring from La Mesa’s Karl Strauss-sponsored beer garden.  And lastly, El Cajon’s Oktoberfest will have certain German delicacies that probably wouldn’t fly with the varied competition in La Mesa.  Ever try ox-on-the-spit?  You can in El Cajon this weekend.

And also, El Cajon’s Oktoberfest last two weekends instead of La Mesa’s one, so even if you can’t bring yourself to choose the latter over the former this weekend, there’s always next weekend to experience the best of both East County Oktoberfests.


Where/when: La Mesa Village, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Why Go: “Real” East Countians don’t need to answer this question, but for any outsiders perusing this column, a few words: Beer.  Brats.  Waffle cones.  Rides.  Row upon row of craft vendors.  And of course, the best people-watching this side of Wal-Mart.

Price: Free admission.


Where/when: German American Societies, 1017 S. Mollison Ave., El Cajon, 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Why Go: A more “traditional” Oktoberfest, El Cajon’s event makes up in flavor what it lacks in size—expect authentically-attired patrons, a wide variety of German beers and liquors and unique German cuisine that is best enjoyed to the tunes of the Guggenbach-Baum band straight out of Baden-Württemberg, Germany.  Plus, vendor booths, games, contests and a Kids’ Zone.

Price: Free admission.


Where/when: Prescott Promenade, Downtown El Cajon, 6 to 8 p.m. Friday.

Why Go: It’s the very last episode of this year’s Concerts on the Green series, and what a way to wrap it up—Sue Palmer will send the series out in style with her boogie woogie/swing stylings, certain to fire up the audience and keep them hanging until the series starts up again next year.

Price: Free. 



Where/when: Hooley’s Rancho San Diego, 2955 Jamacha Rd. Suite 21, El Cajon, 9 p.m. to midnight Saturday.

Why Go: Ever heard anything resembling “Celtic chaos”?  That’s how Carlsbad-based band The Bad Blokes describe themselves, performing contemporary Irish music along with, interestingly enough, bluegrass and surf rock.  Some of their covers include tunes by the Beatles, Johnny Cash, the Pogues and Gaelic Storm.

Price: No cover. 


Where/when: Good Guys Tavern, 7340 Broadway, Lemon Grove, 8 p.m. Saturday.

Why Go: Like Cher, Madonna and Prince, Mike V. apparently feels that dismissing with the last name makes him more distinguishable on the music scene.  Unlike Cher, Madonna and Prince, his first name is not quite as unique, thus the need for the “V.”  Last name included or not, let your ears be the judge as he plays classic rock and blues at the Good Guys Tavern this Saturday.

Price: No cover.


Where/when: Lacey J’s Roadhouse Saloon & Grille, 8861 Magnolia Ave., Santee, 9 p.m. Saturday.

Why Go: No, these aren't the hills that have eyes, but rather the official country band of local radio station KSON.  If kicking up your cowboy boots ain’t your thing, perhaps the delightfully-named cover band Skynyrds Innyrds can tickle your fancy instead Friday night at 9 p.m.

Price: Free.



Where/when: Viejas Dreamcatcher, 5000 Willows Rd., Alpine, 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Why Go: Only a few weeks are left for this competition, which distills San Diego County’s best cover bands down to 20-minute snippets to be judged by both actual judges as well as the audience.  The three winners declared at the Oct. 23 championship will share a handsome prize of $40,000, so do your part to make sure the best prevails.

Price: Free. 

Kim September 30, 2011 at 09:05 PM
Hey Lemon Grove Local ~ Bring the kids out to the El Cajon Oktoberfest. The food and music are all authentic. Parking is much easier (Chase and Mollison), plus the kids will love the Kid Zone. My daughters have volunteered every year for the past 5 years and this is a safe & fun atmosphere ~ no alchol, no smoking. There are plenty of games and crafts to keep the kids entertained for quite a while and you can enjoy the brats and beer garden if you like. Auf Wiedersehen
Lemongrovelocal October 01, 2011 at 04:00 AM
Thanks Kim, we might just do that!
Jim Klepper October 02, 2011 at 10:40 PM
Not sure where the editor of the article got their information but, El Cajon is celebrating 40 years and La Mesa is 39 years. Yes, Authentic German Oktoberfest in El Cajon, so if you can't get to Munich Germany - then El Cajon is the closet thing to it in San Diego county.
Paula McCalester September 28, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Looking for childcare for next Saturday for Oktoberfest? EGA is hosting a fundraiser Parents' Nite Out to benefit The Athletic Department for Albert Einstein Academies German Charter School. 100% of the proceeds will go back directly to the school. Plan your Oktoberfest Date Night now. We look forward to seeing all the Einstein families at the event. tp://www.e-junkie.com/EliteGymnastics/product/473279.php#PNO+Fundraiser+-+AEACS+Fusion
Kim October 02, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Hi Paula. Sorry, but your link would not redirect. Which Oktoberfest Festival location are you offering childcare at?


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