A touch of Germany downtown

August 17, 1997

A touch of Germany downtown

Can you say Augustoberfest? Curious brave heat to check it out


Staff Writer

The food, the music, the costumes, the dancing - everything at Saturday's second annual Augustoberfest was authentically German except for the oppressively humid weather.

Still, that didn't put a damper on the eating, the toasting with beer steins, the cheering and the elaborate footwork on the wooden dance floor under a long white tent covering the North Potomac Street parking lot.


"It's warm but it's not a problem. I like the fun and entertainment," said Shirley Highbarger of Hagerstown.

She and her husband, Charles Highbarger, watched the Municipal Band play in the morning and then returned in the afternoon to hear the German bands, she said.

Even the volksmarch, a noncompetitive walk through the city, was a success.

It drew 183 walkers, Downtown Coordinator Karen Giffin said.

"I was shocked people walked in the heat," she said.

Event Chairman Charles Sekula estimated that between 1,200 and 1,400 people attended the festival.

the event.The day-long festival celebrates Hagerstown's affiliation with Wesel, its sister city in Germany.

For the Boyer family of Hagerstown- parents Greg and Debbie and their sons Clayton, 11, Brandon, 8, and Justin, 5 - the volksmarch and festival were like deja vu.

They just returned in June from a three-year stint in Germany.

"We did it a lot in Germany," Clayton said of the volksmarch. Although in Hagerstown it was "really hot," he said.

Brandon said he liked the bratwurst.

Greg Boyer's only complaint was that he had to convince organizers to let the family's 90-pound black labrador Bear, who sat placidly panting under the table, into the festival.

"Over in Germany we could take our dog everywhere," he said.

Their friends Ruth and Andy Schwalier, of Eldersburg, Md., who also lived in Germany for awhile, had just one suggestion for improving the Augustoberfest.

"I think they should have it in October," Ruth Schwalier said.

"When it's a little cooler," Andy Schwalier added.

The international festival drew some international visitors.

"We're very impressed with the quality. It's quite authentic," said Bruce Nordeck, consul at the Australian embassy in Washington, D.C.

"It's a small but very good version of the original," agreed Nordeck's wife Barbara Lang, a native of Munich where the beer festival originated.

Large fans blew the hot air around as people sat at long tables under colorful banners and balloons, eating, drinking and watching a parade of dancers in lederhosen and plumed walking hats.

Some couples and young children with their faces painted bravely joined in the dancing while German music bands played rousing drinking songs.

"Our type of dance is very aerobic," said Paul Stanavage, a member of the Lancaster, Pa., Alpenrose Schuhplattlers dance group.

The word schuhplatters means "foot slapping" in English, Stanavage said.

The group demonstrated a figure dance during which each person depicted a different part of the milling process, Stanavage said.

"It's very nice. I like the decorations. It could be a little cooler," Stanavage said of his first visit to the Augustoberfest.

There was already talk of next year's festival.

"If they have it again we'll come next year," Shirley Highbarger promised.

"We definitely will do it again from now on," Augustoberfest Chairman Charles Sekula said. "Hopefully it will be a whole weekend affair."

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