You don't have to claim any German heritage to party at Oktoberfest time. If you enjoy life and want to celebrate, fill a stein with beer and the let the music and dancing begin. Lederhosen are optional. (Not everybody looks good in short pants.)

In Munich, where the festival dates back to the early 1800s, Oktoberfest is already underway, but if you can't afford the airfare to Europe, don't worry. You can celebrate much closer to home.

On the Russian River, the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio began its seventh annual Oktoberfest on Saturday. The festivities continue at 2 p.m. today (Oct. 6) and next weekend, with beer, Bavarian food and dancing. 21050 River Road. 865-2300,

Cotati also celebrates its seventh annual Oktoberfest, from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 12) at La Plaza Park, at the corner of Old Redwood Highway and West Sierra Avenue. Karl Lebherz and his Bavarian band will pump out oompah music, and the dance floor will be open for polkas. Contests include the Wiener Dog Races for dachshunds at 2 p.m., the Tankard Hoist for men at 3 p.m., and the Beer Stein Race for women at 4 p.m. No admission or entry fees. A meal including bratwurst, sauerkraut and German potato salad will be available for $15. 795-5508,

In Sonoma, Oktoberfest gets rolling at noon Oct. 13, with music by the Steve Balich Band starting at 2 p.m., at the Hermann Sons Hall, 860 Western Ave. Enjoy pretzels and other German food, and see the Schuhplattler Folk Dancers perform. 778-8066,

The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bear Flag Post 1943, present their Oktoberfest from 3-8 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Sonoma Moose Lodge, 20580 Broadway, Sonoma. The Joe Bajuk Trio will play dance music from 4-8 p.m. Admission costs $12, or $25 including an authentic German-style dinner. Children under 12 get in free, with a kids dinner available for $5. 938-3543,