Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013
Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg celebrates German culture in Texas.
“Guten tag” greetings ring out between neighbors, though their calls are almost drowned out by the sound of tuba players nearby. The smell of sausage links and sauerkraut begins to fill the air as people walk by heavily clad in lederhosen, a traditional German costume, despite the warm day.
Oktoberfest is a sensory experience that appeals to anyone, whether they know how to say “good day” in German or not. It is a Germanic tradition that is over 200 years old, but this Oktoberfest is not in Germany.
This is the 33rd annual Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg, Texas, an area known for its rich German history. Deborah Farquhar, manager at Creative Marketing – which runs the festival, has been involved with Oktoberfest for 31 years.
“In 1979 a group of artists got together with some local people of interest to create a place to show their artwork,” Farquhar said.
There is a tent at the event that is now dedicated to the local art guild, and several vendors sell a variety of handmade gifts such as traditional German costumes, handmade jewelry, pottery, quilts, and Oktoberfest mugs.
Farquhar said the event is different from some other Oktoberfest celebrations in that it is a “family event” which serves the usual variety of beers, but focuses more on culture.
“The Germanic culture is important in Texas,” she said. “To this day, there are still a lot of German speaking families. You will hear the German language at Oktoberfest.”
Stages are set up all around the main area, filled throughout the day with Germanic bands that perform everything from yodeling to the chicken dance. There are food booths all around the grounds serving up sauerkraut Reubens and “Oma’s sausage links”.
Amanda Everitt, a visitor at Oktoberfest, brought her young daughter to the event this year for the first time.
“I came as a child, but I was young and don’t really remember it much,” she said. “But now I’m here bringing my daughter.”
There is a large children’s area that hosts games and bounce houses, but the growing commotion is not coming from the children’s area – it is coming from a nearby crowd whose cheers make it sound like they are on a rollercoaster, going up and down, up and down.
The crowd surrounds a low wooden wall, and children climb on top of it to get a better view. Inside the wall, men take turns slamming a mallet hammer on the “High Striker” with the hope that the metal shooter will ring the bell waiting at the top. Three tries and you are out, like a baseball game.
The first strike often misses, and the crowd shouts encouragement. The second strike sends the shooter half-way up the row and the crowd lifts their voices, only to fall with disappointment. The third strike, for the lucky ones, sends the shooter to the top for that crisp ping of the bell, always followed by cheers.
While the visitors are playing, there are others at work. Ron Kuykendall, a vendor, was busy selling his handmade pottery. This was Kuykendall’s second time to sell at the event. With an estimated 18,000 visitors to the event, Kuykendall said being involved has truly helped his business.
“I taught pottery for 38 years,” he said. “Now I’m just making and selling my own pieces.”
Farquhar said it is such artists who helped start the Oktoberfest celebrations in Fredericksburg 33 years ago.
“They knew that this being a Germanic community with a passion for local arts made it (Oktoberfest) a win-win for everyone,” she said.