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Augustoberfest grows in popularity

August 19, 2000

Augustoberfest grows in popularity



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer


On Saturday, Mary Corderman danced again. It had been a while.

"I love to dance, but my dancing partner died in February and I'm lonely," said Corderman, 82, of Hagerstown.

Fortunately, she sat next to Anna Laub of Hagerstown at the Augustoberfest. Laub, who grew up in Bitburg, in southwest Germany, was out on the floor for nearly every polka and waltz.

The Germans at Augustoberfest were lively, Laub said. As for the Americans, "They need to loosen up more," she said. "They need a couple of beers."

"I like the happiness, die Gemtlichkeit (the snugness)," said Laub, who was with her daughter and grandchildren. "The coziness, the good times."

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About 900 people had filtered in and out of the Augustoberfest tent on North Potomac Street by Saturday evening, said Charles Sekula, event chairman. They were treated to food, music and crafts from several regions of Germany, as well as dance from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Sekula said the event has grown so big it may soon require a city block.

Jrn Schroh, the brgermeister, or mayor, of Wesel, Germany, said this was his first Octoberfest. In Germany, the big festival is in Munich, more than 350 miles from Wesel, Hagerstown's sister city.

Schroh is leaving Hagerstown today after a six-day visit.

He said he was overjoyed by Saturday's German music, which he said was better than what he hears at home.

He also was thrilled by the American oldies music Friday night and danced a lot. He may have had too much fun.

"I drank one beer too much," Schroh said. "I had a headache (Saturday) morning."

About 40 members of a Wesel social club accompanied Schroh and his wife, Gemille, Sekula said. The club began in 1241 as a protective militia.

"They came specifically for this celebration and to strengthen the relationship of the sister cities," said Sekula, who owns the Schmankerl Stube Bavarian Restaurant.

On Friday night, about 950 people attended the '60s Under the Stars concert at the same spot, Sekula said. The Vogues, The Regents and Joey Dee and the Starlighters performed.

About 30 classic cars were parked at the entrance to the concert.

On Saturday, only one car came back, a violet 1938 Ford. Its owners, John and Barbara Perrott of Clear Spring, Md., won a trophy for best of show, as chosen by Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II.

The couple are members of 81-70 Cruisers, a local car club.

Inside the Augustoberfest tent, the band Heimat Echo, or Echoes from the Homeland, from the Washington area, played popular beer-hall "oompah" music.

Every so often, bandleader Mark Meuschke stopped for ein Prosit, or a toast. Ein, zwei, drei (one, two, three), then "down the hatch," Meuschke explained afterwards.

Some melodies were even familiar to non-Germanic ears, like the "Beer Barrel Polka" and "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain."

The band rotated sets with the Alpine Dancers, based in New Carrolton, Md. Their polkas were fast-paced, matching their waltzes and mazurkas. Pairs whirled around the wooden dance platform, which buckled slightly during each firm stomp.

The men wore kniebundhosen, or knickers, which are a type of lederhosen, said Carol Traxler, a leader of the dance group. Each man also wore a vest, a tyrolean hat and a bandl, or little ribbon, around his neck.

The women were dressed in dirndls, or cotton dresses, with aprons. Some had white blouses with puffy sleeves.

The day was perfect for Sylvia and Bob Shives of Hagerstown, who tapped their table in time to the music as they ate lunch.

The Shiveses lived in Worms, in southwest Germany, for three years in the early 1980s. Bob Shives was a civilian computer specialist with the U.S. Army.

"It was the Camelot of our life," he said.

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