Sunday, September 09, 2001

Polkas, steins and fun at fest

Thousands visit MainStrasse area for annual party

By Sarah Buehrle
Enquirer Contributor

[photo] Stephanie O'Koon of Florence dances with her 5-year-old daughter, Emily, at the annual Oktoberfest in Covington's MainStrasse Village.
(Mike Simons photo)
| ZOOM |
        COVINGTON — Many wore lederhosen, carried beer steins and strolled to polka music through the historic MainStrasse district Saturday as Covington celebrated its 23rd annual Oktoberfest.

        What started as a small festival to celebrate the then-recent renovation of the MainStrasse area has become an internationally recognized three-day festival that attracts an estimated 150,000 people each year.

        Organizers estimated Friday night's crowd to be 5,000, lower than expected because of rain and road construction.

        But Saturday's estimated attendance grew to between 80,000 and 100,000, they said.

        According to 15-year MainStrasse Village Association member Mick Noll, Oktoberfest brings in about $3.5 million to Greater Cincinnati.

        It attracts food vendors and nearly 100 sellers of art and crafts from around the country, but Oktoberfest still maintains its German roots.

        Traditional German bands play on several stages throughout the weekend and vendors offer plates piled high with sauerkraut.

        Gisela Bundy, Hubert Schmieder and Ruth Spitznacle visited with the German American Club of Lafayette, Ind.

   • What: Oktoberfest 2001.
    • When: Noon-9 p.m. today.
    • Where: MainStrasse Village, along Sixth Street promenade and Philadelphia Street in Covington.
    • Cost: Free admission.
    • Music: Noon- 9 p.m., three stages.
    • Parking: Free shuttle from the Westin Hotel in downtown Cincinnati, the IRS lot in Covington at Fourth and Johnson streets, Jillian's parking lot in Covington, the Covington City lot at Seventh and Scott streets, the Covington city lot at RiverCenter, the Fifth Third Bank parking lot in Fort Wright (Kyles Lane exit).
        Mr. Schmieder and Ms. Spitznacle are German immigrants; Ms. Bundy is from Karlsbad in the Czech Republic.

        All three were impressed. Ms. Spitznacle, 75, was eager to try the local goetta, which she read about in a newspaper article. Ms. Bundy, 76, appreciated the traditional German bands.

        “We've noticed there are a lot of old buildings here,” Mr. Schmieder, 73, said. “... They've kept up all the old traditions.”

        This year's MainStrasse festival features the band Heuboden Musikanten from Bavaria, Germany.

        Mr. Noll, who worked with the Downtown Council of Cincinnati to bring the band to the festival, said he heard the group perform at Cincinnati's Oktoberfest in the mid-1990s.

        “The leader of the band is known as the polka king over there,” Mr. Noll said.

        “They're energetic, and they get the crowd involved.”

        Cincinnati will hold its Oktoberfest Zinzinnati Sept. 15-16 downtown. The Heuboden Musikanten band will perform at the Cincinnati festival.


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