CHIPPEWA FALLS — With plenty of dancing and comedy, a new glockenspiel show — featuring six local men — will make its debut Friday at the 14th annual Oktoberfest in Chippewa Falls.
The performers — accordion player Darryle “Tex” Matott and dancers Mike Stoffel, Tom Cushman, Jeff Newton, Mike Tznaskis and Ian Kopp — have practiced all summer, hammering down choreography and working in some humorous spots.
The show — which will be performed at 3 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday — lasts about 13 minutes. The stage — constructed by the men — is meant to look like a giant cuckoo clock with a Chippewa Falls flavor: a backdrop featuring a shoe cobbler, a beer stein and an ax.
“We’ve got hundreds of hours into this, between dancing and building the stage,” said Newton, the 2015 Oktoberfest festmeister. “We started practicing in the basement of Northwestern Bank, after hours. My kids caught on and started to say, ‘Dad is going to dance class.’ ”
Stoffel and two of the other performers graduated from Chippewa Falls McDonell High School in 1986, and he’s enjoyed putting together the show.
“This is a blast,” Stoffel said. “We’ve kicked this idea around for 10 years, and it’s finally a reality.”
Peg Leinenkugel provided the choreography for the show, but the men tweaked it to make it their own. The men have met multiple times a week — and lately nearly every day — to make sure their routine was down. They did a full dress rehearsal Tuesday at the festival site, and it earned lots of laughs and cheers from onlookers.
“I think all of our Oktoberfest attendees are just going to love it,” Leinenkugel said. “I’ve taught them the Schuhplatter step — it involves the slapping of legs and feet. Yes, I did the choreography, but they’ve spent so much time learning it.”
Tznaskis suggested making flutes out of empty beer bottles. The others liked the idea, so Tznaskis went to work making the “bier flaschenflote,” and they incorporated the instruments into the show.
The festival brought in a glockenspiel show several years ago. “It was entertaining, but we wanted to make it all our own,” Newton said.
The men agreed that this isn’t a one-time performance — they all plan to keep practicing and do the show annually.
Last year’s festival drew about 12,000 attendees over three days to the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds. Nicole Hecksel, programs director with the Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, said if the weather is good, she’s hoping to hit 15,000 festivalgoers this year.
Along with the glockenspiel show, there are new food vendors and an expanded number of events for kids, from inflatables to painting and kite-making, Hecksel said.
While there are no new music acts debuting this year, Hecksel is pleased that so many crowd favorites are back, such as Barefoot Becky & the Ivanhoe Dutchmen at 7 p.m. Saturday in the main tent. Also back for the first time in several years will be Chuck Thiel & the Jolly Ramblers, who will play at 12:15 p.m. Sunday for a polka service.
Popular events returning include the sauerkraut-eating contest at 7:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday and a beer stein holding contest at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Competitors must hold 1-liter beer steins that are filled with water — weighing roughly 2.2 pounds — in front of them, with their elbow locked, until the last person is left with their jug in place.
Oktoberfest kicks off at noon Friday with the naming of the festmeister and festmeisterin at the nearby Leinenkugel brewery. The gathered crowd will then march up the hill and into the fairgrounds for the tapping of the Golden Keg.
As always, the identities of the royal couple are a closely guarded secret. Only a handful of people know who will be honored. The Chamber of Commerce generally chooses people who donate their time to the community in area service organizations.
The 13 prior royal couples are all expected to be on hand for the celebration. The Oktoberfest website features several pictures of all the royalty together from last year.
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