The banks of the Chattahoochee River come to life in Helen, Georgia this fall with ompah music and Bavarian bier. Every year since 1970 Georgia's most famous Oktoberfest transforms tranquil Helen into the ultimate north Georgia party town. Polka with dancers in native costume, eat Bavarian food and enjoy the festival into the wee hours of the morning.
Helen, Georgia became known as a tourist capital shortly after changing its appearance to look like a town in the Bavarian Alps. Good-natured Pete Hodkinson, one of the four men responsible for revitalizing Helen, also created Oktoberfest, copied from the Bavarian town of Munich.
In 1810 Munich, the capital of Bavaria, hosted a royal wedding and the two-week long party filled the streets with revelers. The party continued through the years, growing bigger with time. People at the Oktoberfest would drink a unique Bavarian bier called Marzen. This thick brew, which is traditionally served during the autumn, is noted for its high alcohol content and full flavor.
The first Helen Oktoberfest was a limited success, but within five years the party had caught on and the streets of Helen were filled with visitors. Helen expanded the party to six weeks, including the popular leaf-change season. Hotels fill up, so it is important to book a hotel early. We have included links for on-line reservations at the city's best hotels.
Although the entire town participates in the Oktoberfest, Oompah-central is the Festhalle, where the bands play throughout the day. It is here that cold beer and hot off the grill German-style wursts (sausages) are served. A parade, normally on the first Saturday of the festival, kicks off the celebration. When we came for the parade in 2001 (shortly after September 11) it was truly memorable as those who could find an American flag waved it during the celebration.
Once you're sated on schnitzel, escape the crowds and visit one of the many nearby attractions. At the intersection of SR75 and SR17 there is the Nacoochee Indian Mound, a remnant of the Moundbuilders, an ancient Indian culture who controlled most of Georgia before 1500 AD. The Creek Indians may be descendants of this earlier tribe.
Continue on SR17 and visit one of our favorites: The Sautee Store, another northern European outpost. Built along the Unicoi Turnpike, the store has served a number of functions during its 130+ years of existence: post office, election poll, store, and equipment dealer. Today it is operated as a store with a Norwegian accent. In front is a museum of sorts.
Hiking is also a popular pastime in the Helen area and Helen is an excellent place to find local trails. Helen, Georgia Not every town has a history as interesting as Helen.
Helen's Oktoberfest begins on the second Thursday of September and runs through the first Sunday of November
Map to Festhalle, Helen, Georgia
Take GA 75 north from Cleveland to Helen. The Festhalle is on the right behind Wendy's.