Friday, September 06, 2002

AugSeptOktoberfest time!

Festivals swing heritage through Tristate for weeks on end

By Cindy Kranz,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In Greater Cincinnati, Oktober begins in August.

        At least five Oktoberfests celebrate the area's German heritage, beginning this year with Dunlap's Germania Oktoberfest on Aug. 23 and ending with Schwaben Oktoberfest Oct. 4-6 in Colerain Township.

[photo] Mick Noll of Covingtonšs Strudel Haus cook sausages for the MainStrasse Village Oktoberfest kickoff luncheon Thursday.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        Today, the three-day MainStrasse Village Oktoberfest gets under way in Covington.

        But why five festivals? Is it the gut beer? Gut food, company and culture?

        Answer: all of the above — and a large dose of pride. Though the 2000 census says Cincinnati is less German than a decade ago, it remains the third-most German city in the country. And there's enough of a draw here to ensure the survival of all the German fests.

        Last weekend, 4,500 people attended the 39th Annual Deutscher Hausverein Oktoberfest in Hamilton. Baby boomers and senior citizens, children and teenagers — most everyone danced the polka and ate brats, signaling that young people are embracing traditions of their ancestors.

        “It's the party atmosphere, the beer, the music and the food, especially. It's all homemade,” said Klaus Giese, 44, co-chairman of the Hamilton fest. “My parents came from Germany. It's interesting to see what their culture was all about, what they did for entertainment, how they grew up when they were children.”

        And for some, one Oktoberfest is not enough. Many at the Hamilton fest mentioned going to other German celebrations as well.

   The German-American Citizens League of Cincinnati officially sanctions the following as Oktoberfest events:
   Aug. 23-25: Germania Society's Germania Oktoberfest at Germania Park, Cincinnati.
   Aug. 31-Sept.1: Deutscher Hausverein Oktoberfest, Hamilton.
   Sept. 6-8: MainStrasse Village Oktoberfest, Covington. Information:
   Sept. 21-22: Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati, downtown Cincinnati. Information:
   Oct. 4-6: Schwaben Oktoberfest, Donauschwaben Park, Colerain Township. Information:

        Mr. Giese, a UPS driver from Hamilton, says many of the thousands of German-Americans here belong to clubs, and each puts on its own version of Oktoberfest: “Everybody has their own weekends established so we don't conflict with anybody.”

        Some German clubs are small, so they send workers to help at one anothers' festivals.

        “Cincinnati is viewed as a hotbed of German heritage, as well as St. Louis and Milwaukee,” said Raymond Buse III, public relations manager for the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and spokesman for Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati. The granddaddy of the Tristate festivals is Sept. 21-22 downtown.

        “The Oktoberfests don't really compete against each other,” Mr. Buse said. “They just feed off of each other. A lot of folks like the small Oktoberfests in their neighborhoods that aren't as big.”

        That's what drew Bob and Vivian Stinson and their two children, Emma and Kyle, to the Hamilton festival last weekend.

        “It's nice out here,” Mrs. Stinson said. “It's always been a family setting. The kids always like the chicken dance.”

        Oktoberfests are really the only way German traditions will endure, the Hamilton woman said. “If your grandparents and parents don't pass it down to you, it's going to be lost.”

        On Sunday, 22-year-old Justyna Walaschek of Germany and 21-year-old Sarah Becker of Monroe danced the polka in Hamilton. Justyna, who was a German exchange student at Badin High School five years ago, is visiting Sarah and her family.

        “They watched them do (the polka) at Germania (Oktoberfest) last weekend,” said Sarah's mother, Mary Lou. “They won a contest.” The two friends will travel to Germany in a few weeks, where they can dance at the Munich Oktoberfest.

        Cincinnati doesn't have a lot of German restaurants, so festivals are another way people can get their German food fix.

        The ladies of the Liberty Home German Society, which sponsored the Hamilton Oktoberfest, prepared 500 pounds of potato salad, 400 pounds of sauerkraut and 1,000 cabbage rolls.

        Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati downtown is the largest Oktoberfest in the United States, and second-largest in the world behind Munich's, drawing 500,000 annually. The question Mr. Buse is asked most often is why Oktoberfest is held in September.

        “Many people think we hold Oktoberfest in September because the weather is nicer,” he said.

        The truth is it's the same weekend that Munich kicks off its two-week Oktoberfest.

        The Munich event dates to 1810 when a German prince, Ludwig I, was married. His wedding party was such a hit that it lasted for two weeks, and Oktoberfest has been held annually ever since.

        “It's correct to hold Oktoberfest in September if you want to be true to the tradition,” Mr. Buse said.


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