Augustoberfest celebrates heritage

August 25, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

Ein, zwei, drei, g'suffa!

With that simple German toast - translated as "one, two three, drink!" - the seventh annual Augustoberfest got under way in Hagerstown on Saturday.

Festival-goers enjoyed all the staples of Bavaria, from bratwurst sandwiches to polka music, at the celebration of Hagerstown's German heritage. Not to mention the freely flowing beer from a Munich company called Hacker-Pschorr, which has had 600 years to perfect its brews.

An ornamental archway emblazoned with "willfommen," which means welcome, led visitors into the festival. It was custom built to be a scaled-down version of the archway used in Munich's Oktoberfest, said festival chairman Charles Sekula.


Sekula is a Munich native who owns the Schmankerl Stube Bavarian restaurant in Hagerstown.

Augustoberfest was held in the North Potomac Street Central Parking Lot under several large, white tents that shielded people from the hot sun. Heavy rain overnight caused part of a tent to collapse, but repairs were made in time for the festival's 11 a.m. start.

Long tables covered with blue checked tablecloths provided seating for about 1,200 people, said Karen Giffin, City of Hagerstown public information manager.

Pat and Arline Panaggio of Towson, Md., who have been to the massive Munich Oktoberfest, said Augustoberfest can't compare in size or scope.

"They dance on the tables over there," said Pat Panaggio, 80, who wore a black German-style hat he bought over there.

The Panaggios said they were enjoying the German food as well as the slice of culture.

"We're proud of our heritage," said Arline Panaggio, 67.

As she watched the polka dancers, Wendy Hendrickson, 47, of Ellicott City, Md., wondered if square dancing has its roots in Germany.

"If you watch the way they move, there's a little similarity," she said.

Dancers pulled people from the crowd to join in their polkas.

Among them was Keller "Chub" Banzhoff of Smithsburg, who recently retired from HBP in Hagerstown.

"It was a little rough when we started, but by the time you got to the end you knew what you were doing," he said.

Augustoberfest culminates Hagerstown's Sister City Weekend, which celebrates the city's affiliation with Wesel, Germany.

Usually, a group from Wesel visits the festival. But they missed the party this year so they can be here in October, when the two cities observe the 50th anniversary of their partnership, Giffin said.

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