Volunteering – Stoketoberfest

Stoketoberfest is Located in Munich, Germany, on a small camping ground 20 minutes bus ride from the worlds biggest beer festival. Oktoberfest. Over seven weeks The campsite is run by Stoke, and transformed to become the home to over a hundred party thirsty volunteers, who set the stage (literally) for thousands of guests from all over the world to let loose at Stoke travels biggest event of the year. Stoke set up begins three weeks prior to Oktoberfest, The festival itself lasts for two weeks over three weekends, then everything is torn down in approximately two weeks. Volunteers are given one day off per week, provided with their very own cosy two person tent in the secluded staff area, three meals a day and more beer than you can handle. Set up is rotated daily between teams, such as tent crew, the builders (chippy crew), electricians (sparky crew), entertainment crew, or the dreaded kitchen crew, who have the unenviable task of starting work early, and supplying the bleary eyed maggots with their breakfast grub.

On a wet miserable Munich morning I joined a handful of weary travellers slowly shuffling into the obermenzing campingplatz. Armed with Raincoats and umbrellas work began on erecting staff tents in an almost tent peg proof area due to the rocky soil covering in the far back corner of the campsite. We barely managed to have enough tents ready for the workers to sleep in on day one. The challenge of setting up over a thousand tents for the 2,500 guests who’d booked for the second weekend seemed a far away prospect. It was the first of many sleepless nights form the Stoke crew as the party kicked into full gear.

Next day, As brekkie comes to a close The morning meeting starts. Reading from the daily whiteboard our team leader firstly announces the most important topics for the day. Which staff members spent the previous night together. Colleague relationships are not frowned upon in this workplace. Nor are they kept secret or gossiped about. Everything is out in the open at it starts at the morning meeting. No matter how sober and secluded you think you’ve been the night before, no matter how well you manage to sneak back into your tent the morning after, the boss ALWAYS finds out. So it’s best to laugh about it and carry on. As one worker liked to put it ‘we are all one big family.. one big incest family’. If it’s announced that one couple has spent three nights in a row together, a wedding is held to commemorate this feat. The crew organise a huge party to commemorate the happy couple usually decked out with props and wedding attire for the occasion.

Obermenzing campingplatz resembles more of a zoo than a construction site. Stoke travel has no place for OHS guidelines, Baretoed Carpenters dodge exposed rusty nails while sipping on half full stubbies as they cut, grind, and man handle fragile wooden pallets. Sparkies regularly overload circuit breakers and run live cables through the mud, day after day workers wielding rubber mallets drunkely force tent pegs into the solid ground. Both men and women often walk around naked and there’s always someone forcing beer bongs down people’s neck. People are shagging in lunch breaks and There’s always someone who’s not fit for work, bloodshot eyes, bent over, resting an arm on a tree stump as the contents of their recent meal are projected onto the floor. 

Tools go down around dinner time and just when the vibe has quietened, hangovers appear to have crept in and the excitement levels have dipped. The crowd gathers at dinner, The music comes on, tummy’s are full, thirsts are quenched and the party suddenly kicks up a whole other level! The relief that another fun filled but ultimately monotonous day of shoving pegs in the ground and unloading trucks full of beer crates comes to an end. From this moment the crews immediate goal is to get hammered and do the most stupid shit possible. The ones who achieved this goal with most success is the bunch of male kiwis hell bent on getting there knobs out. One of their finest moments, jumping up onto the tables and pissing in their own mouth. There’s people with clippers walking around shaving heads, others getting random tattoos and alot who find pleasure in simply breaking shit. Whether it be beer bottles, tents, or each other, a guarantee would be the majority of the morning shift was spent cleaning up the previous nights antics.

Having so many amped up young people in one place it was inevitable for drama to occur amongst the group. Alliances were formed, relationships developed and jealous tantrums broke out. An inevitable occurrence with this many hormones and testosterone bouncing about. Despite this occasional tension I was easily able to get along with everybody on site and sneak under the drama radar. There were so Many quality individuals amongst the group all with an interesting story to tell.

Panic engulfs the management team as the start of the festival draws closer. We are well behind schedule and somehow we’ve come to the realisation that there’s not even enough space, or enough tents to erect which will accommodate the amount of people who’ve booked during the all-important weekend number 2. Things get serious amongst those in charge but most of the others are too drunk to care and are happy to continue the shambolic madness.

Sure enough the elusive tents get built and the guests come charging in as the final touches are being put on the rather impressive campsite. The performance stage is built almost entirely of empty beer crates. It will be host to some up and coming bands and DJ’s, comedians and for the most part, drunk Stoke volunteers. The party arena is big enough to fit about a thousand guests, it’s got a guru tent where you go to ask questions, a merchandise tent to purchase stoke branded clothing, a chill out lounge, a porn cinema with a large vagina shaped door, a kitchen where guests collect their free breakfast and dinner, the bar easily the most popular area, and the famous spinning wheel of misfortune, the dare devil who spins the wheel has to perform one of the 8 embarrassing tasks that the pin lands on, such as nude run, do a shoey, or kiss a stokey.

It was my job during the festival to work behind the bar. For our guests, €10 euros per day would get unlimited beer or sangria. The shifts are morning or evening and lasts for 8 hours. Morning shift starts at the same time as breakfast, 8am, and you’d be surprised at how busy my job is at this time of day. The unlimited supply of beer and sangria is not just available to guests but the staff as well. Drinking on the job is not only allowed but it’s encouraged. A two beer minimum before work is advised. More often than not, every bar staff is actually more drunk than anyone in the crowd, and they don’t suspect a thing. Often erupting into rapturous applause when one of the bar staff reaches for a beer bong.

The alarm buzzes me awake at 7. despite my continual snooze button protest I drag myself to the filthy staff showers and try to find the one with the least amount of vomit, immerse myself in the energizing cleansing water, quickly dry off and squeeze into my unnecessarily small stoke t-shirt. The campsite is a ghost town at these early hours with the occasional zombie eyed, lederhosen clad guest wandering aimlessly for a toilet. Flies and tiny insects hover over the sticky bar table top that’s covered in remnants of beer and red sangria from the night before. My flip flops crunch over the broken glass, the air reeks of a strange mixture of beer, sangria, vomit and urine. Many guests comment on this particular aroma to which I became immune to smelling as the days wore on, and the stench grew stronger. I’m barely able to begin spraying down the unhygienic work surface as the guests roll in to collect their breakfast grub, an equally large amount head straight for the bar and I begin filling their stained cups with a shakey right hand. The shakes were a clear side affect of being constantly drunk which only begins to cease trembling until I finish consuming my second beer for the morning. In fact Any activity is physically and mentally straining, until beer number 2 goes down my throat. Reaffirming the 2 beer before work rule, to make us more sociable and appealing to our guests.

Once my 8 hour shift of pouring beer and drinking beer is done, I would usually pour beer and drink it, from the other side of the bar. A process repeated everyday during the festival weeks. Some days though, I’d dress up in the famous lederhosen and catch the bus to that beer festival that everyone’s come all this way for. These days were the best and the biggest. A rogue bunch of stokies all congregate in the main area, chugging free booze and waiting for a larger crew to form before setting off to let loose away from the chaos of the campingplatz.

The massive festival is free to enter and opens early, closing around 11pm. There’s about 6 large indoor tents which are filled with long wooden tables and drunk tourists singing and dancing on top of them. An extremely rare event to be surrounded by thousands of people, from all over the world, all dressed in the same costume, all incredibly drunk on beer. During busy days, like the weekends it’s a good idea to arrive early and get a good spot. There’s usually plenty of seating outside or you can wait it out to get a spot in the heaving beer halls, If you’re a small group seats free up often although as the day wears on indoor seats are hard to come by. 

The waitresses or waiters come to serve you at your table and will return faster and more obligingly the heftier the tip. The beer is big and strong, contains 8% alcohol and comes in massive 1L Stein glasses. The heavy jugs are easily hoisted by the petite, well trained festival staff, they carry 8 beers per person with relative ease, pushing and shoving there way around staggering people to hydrate the thirsty crowd. There’s traditional Bavarian music playing loudly from the live bands in the middle of the hall. Occasionally someone stands on the table and extends a full glass to the sky. Cheers erupt, and all eyes fix on the man with the Stein. If he doesn’t finish the whole glass he’ll be booed, jeered, and most likely removed from the hall by the security staff.  

Adults become children at the amusement park, here you can test yourself on all the traditional games and arcades you’d expect to find at amusement parks except this time it’s full of drunken idiots who can barely stand up straight. It’s great to unwind here if the beer halls were simply not enough, or too much chaos in one day.

The party ramps up as the festival nears its end, one last push for fun, it’s been a long month. the stokies are literally on their last legs, crawling to the finish line. Most crew members wander the camp grounds, coughing and spluttering, most have come down with an illness and some are so ill they haven’t been seen outside of their tent for days. The fresh faced stokies that arrived on september 1 are barely recognisable, and appear to have aged years during the festival.

Zombies fill the campsite over The first two days of pack down, barely anyone can function, there’s nothing getting done. A clear indication of a deflated mood is the beer bong usage which has plummeted during pack down. After a busy month There’s very few people interested in drinking through a funnel in the first few days of pack down. It’s as quiet as it’s ever been and I personally use the opportunity to get some much needed rest and even made the bold move to go for a run in nature which turned out to be the best recovery.

The tents slowly disappear after the hellish first week of pack down, elevating the mood amongst the group. There’s not many people left working and the pack down jobs slowly dwindle as well. all the dust had settled. Some amazing, life long friendships had been made. Memories had been created, and often forgotten in a drunken haze. Tears and cheers for a truly work hard play hard adventure at the platz. In an attempt to ignore the looming hangover the final few days rolled into one, huge final celebration culminating with the end of season awards ceremony. It felt somewhat sad leaving that tiny camping village that became a familiar home for so long. I travelled north to begin a second season of dog sledding and barely touched another alcoholic beverage since that messy experience.

Cheers to Stoke and the crew, for the unique experience at stoketoberfest 2018. 

Visit stoketravel.com for this, and many more similar festivals around the world

For unlimited beer and sangria, use codeword: CHEDDAR

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: