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A touch of Germany in downtown Hagerstown

August 16, 1998

AugostoberfestBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer

photo: MIKE CRUPI / staff photographer [enlarge]




The most important dignitary at

Augustoberfest in downtown Hagerstown Saturday was Marieta Ohletz, deputy mayor of Wesel, Germany, for the last 45 years Hagerstown's sister city.

Ohletz arrived Wednesday and has been on the go touring attractions in the area including Antietam National Battlefield, meeting with local political and business leaders and visiting the Washington County Museum, which she said impressed her most of all. "I didn't expect to see a museum as wonderful as that in a city this size," she said.

Ohletz, 50, is a high school art teacher in Wesel. "I guess that's why I liked your museum so much," she said.

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This is the third year for Augustoberfest, said Charles Sekula, chairman and organizer of the event.

The celebration, a Bavarian beer festival with German food and beer, dances and two oompah bands, was expected to draw about 3,000 patrons Saturday, Sekula said.

Last year about 1,600 attended, double the number who came the first year it was held, he said.

Sekula wants it to outgrow the North Potomac Street parking lot where it has been held every year under a giant tent.

Sekula wants it to get so big that the city will block off the first block of South Potomac Street, from the square to Schmankerl Stube, his Bavarian restaurant at the end of the block.

"If I can draw 10,000 people I'm sure the city will let me close off the block. It will be a chance to show off our city," he said.

In additioin, a Volksmarch was held with Augustoberfest, said Karen Giffin, festival spokesperson.

The six-mile walk around town drew about 240 people, said Cheryl Vecera, spokeswoman for the Piedmont Pacers of Carroll County, the group sponsoring the walk.

Giffin said the festival usually nets around $3,000 in profits each year. The money goes to the Sister City Affiliation which exchanges 20 local high school students with Wesel every year, plus two local non-profit groups. This year's beneficiaries will be the Washington County Arts Council and the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, Giffin said.

Saturday was the first time two local couples came to the event.

Dressed in matching yellow polo shirts and sitting in a far corner of the tent away from the band were Joe and Pam O'Connor. "I got all my work done at home this morning and this seemed like a good way to spend the afternoon," Joe O'Connor said.

"We're also here to support our community," his wife said.

Dwight and Judy Heintzelman were sitting closer to the band. Recent imports from Waynesboro, Pa., the couple said they are trying to participate in local activities. "Besides, with a name like Heintzelman we belong here," Judy said.

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