Sunday, August 24, 2003

Sip or slurp, polka or rock, just get down

From escargot to schnitzel-to-go, there's a festival in town for you

By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Alice Ruffin from Avondale cheers as Al Green performs on Saturday afternoon at the Taste of Blue Ash.
(Leigh Patton photo)
| ZOOM |
They couldn't be more different. Two festivals, on opposite sides of town. Different people, different tastes. Yet it's those differences that define our town.

One is traditional Cincinnati - a celebration of everything German and meaty.

The other, a hipper suburban soiree - all grilled salmon and champagne.

The 33rd annual Germania Society Oktoberfest commemorates the region's German heritage with authentic food, music and beer. Across town, the 18-year-old Taste of Blue Ash boasts the town's astonishing growth as a magnet for young families and businesses.

Both events continue today - and each attracts a different crowd.

They're not just looking for brats and beer at the Oktoberfest in Dunlap, which draws about 20,000 people.

"It's an important event for the German people of Cincinnati," said Mark Geers, 40, chairman of Oktoberfest. "Our mission statement is to perpetuate German heritage and uphold those traditions."

Those roots run deep in this area. Many of Over-the-Rhine's original inhabitants emigrated from Germany - in 1851, Germans constituted 60 percent of the neighborhood's population. And though the 2000 census says Cincinnati is less German than a decade ago, it remains the third-most German city in the country.

"It's a festival that speaks to the heart and soul of the people here," said local German historian Don Tolzmann, of Dent. "It's honoring the people who built and made this city."

The crowd is generally the same each year. And they come to return to their roots.

"It goes through generations," said Rob Hammann, 34, of Glendale, who was managing the Schnitzel Haus booth. "People go because their grandparents went."

Some came from as far as Phoenix, Ariz. Others attended by the busload, like the group of 30 who arrived from Chicago by mid-afternoon.

"For the old-timers, Oktoberfest is about pride and joy," said Brigitte Pacitti of the Western Hills. "For the younger people, it's keeping up a tradition."

The most authentic part of the Germania festival is the food, which includes 16,000 sauerkraut balls, cooked as early as May; 800 pounds of potatoes and 50 pounds of bacon that become German potato salad; 400 cabbage rolls and 500 servings of pork loin.

The fest also features a pit that cooks 100 chickens on a spit every hour, as well as bierwurst, Limburger cheese and more.

"You're not going to come to this festival and get pizza," Hammann said. "It's 90 percent sausage here."

Germania's celebration - the oldest and most authentic in Cincinnati - is designed to resemble Oktoberfest in Munich, held on the Wies'n (meadows) of Germania Park.

"You get a very pleasurable feeling on these grounds," Geers said. "There's some magic going on."

Twenty miles away, the Taste of Blue Ash attracted a different kind of people - more than 225,000 are expected by the time it ends tonight.

The wildly popular fest at Cooper and Hunt roads features an impressive lineup of free national music acts, such as Al Green and the Go-Go's. There's also a thickly lined street with a wide array of food from 22 restaurants.

Chris Shelley, 36, attended the Taste with two fellow Daytonians. After making an appearance at Chilifest, A Taste of Cincinnati and other local fetes, their mantra is "Have festival, will travel."

"We love Cincinnati festivals, and we've been to a lot of festivals here," Shelley said. "Out of them all, this one seems to offer the most."

There's a neighborhood atmosphere at Taste that you don't find elsewhere, said A.J. Penn, 19, of Blue Ash.

"You can't come here without running into someone you know," he said.

That's why friends Sarah Sonneborn, 17, and Maggie Subetor, 18, both of Blue Ash, and David Tarai, 17, of Montgomery were at Saturday's event. It was a last-ditch celebration before school begins.

"Classes are starting up soon, so this is like our last chance to see people," Subetor said.

Though featured food items included everything from mushrooms and escargot to filet mignon sandwiches and crawfish etouffee, the two children of Louise Labrie, 35, of West Chester preferred snow cones and funnel cakes.

"With everything they have for kids, this is a perfect thing for families," she said. "But with all the food and music and people, this would be an event I'd like to attend if I were childless, too. It's pretty much appropriate for anyone."

The key to the event's success is that they have found a happy medium, Subetor said.

"Some festivals seem more kid-oriented or more for adults, but this is a good mixture," she said.

If you go
Taste of Blue Ash
When: Noon-10 p.m. today. Children's area closes at 9 p.m.
Where: Cooper and Hunt roads.
Admission: Free
Parking: Free shuttle buses will run continuously from area schools, businesses and the city building.
Information:, 745-8686 or 745-6259.
Main Stage concerts:
• 4-5:30 p.m.: Ooh La La & The Greasers
• 7-8 p.m.: Mike Smith of Dave Clark Five
• 8:30-10 p.m.: Go-Go's

Cincinnati's Original and Most Authentic Oktoberfest
When: Concludes noon-10 p.m. today.Where: Germania Park, 3529 W. Kemper Road (between Hamilton and Colerain avenues), Colerain Township.
Admission: $2; under 12 free.
Information:, 742-0060.

Other fun festivals

Riverfest 2003
When: Noon-11 p.m. Aug. 31
Where: Sawyer Point, Yeatman's Cove, and Central Riverfront.
Cost: Free.
Motorists on both sides of the river are encouraged to use public transportation. Both Metro and TANK will offer shuttle service to and from the "Third Federal Riverfest 2003 featuring the Toyota/WEBN fireworks".
Information: or call Metro, 621-4455, or TANK, (859) 331-TANK.

Ohio Renaissance Festival

When: 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays (and Labor Day) through Oct. 19.
Where: Renaissance Park, Harveysburg.
Cost: $15 adult; $8 children 5-12; children under 5, free. Combination packages (including meals) for four people: $70.
Parking: Free.

Oktoberfest in Covington
When: 5-11 p.m. Sept. 5, noon-11 p.m. Sept. 6 and noon-9 p.m. Sept. 7.
Where: Covington's Mainstrasse Village.
Cost: Free

Seventh Annual Artsapalooza
When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 14.
Where: Nisbet Park, Loveland.
Cost: Free
Parking: Free

Kolping Oktoberfest
When: 4-midnight Sept. 13, 2-10 p.m. Sept. 14.
Where: Kolping Center, Springfield Township.
Cost: Free
Information: (513) 851-7951

72nd Annual Italian Day Festival
When: Sunday, September 14, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Where: Harvest Home Park, Cheviot.
Cost: Free.
Parking: Free.


When: Opening Ceremony, noon-1 p.m. Sept. 19, Fountain Square; 11 a.m.-midnight Sept. 20, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sept. 21.
Where: Fifth and Race streets, and Fountain Square to Broadway, downtown
Cost: Free

Pulfer: Can lawyers work out a kinder, gentler divorce?
Bronson: Lynch acts within theater of politics
Howard: Some good news
Hey, kid! What're you doing?

Sip or slurp, polka or rock, just get down
It's a lovely summer - if you're a mold
Green thumb wins lots of greenbacks
Blueprint to end boycott offered
Fernald tower toppled
Black students narrow the gap
New designs freshen schools
No use crying: Crash spills milk
Reading streetscape vetoed
Workers rush to ready classes
Bidders purchase 'steals' at car sale
Good boy! Top cop pooch wins award
Margaret Heisel was a volunteer, leader
Jeff Allan Rodgers, Gulf War veteran
Regional Report

Man buys box, finds human ashes inside
Wounded pilots support own kind

'Short' story to end Monday
'Vietnam wall' coming to Florence
Boone kin want name put back on highway
School dropout audit sought
Searchers find body of missing woman
Town threatens fine over 9-11 memorial