Back in time and across the world

August 14, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

Das muss gefeiert werden. Translation: This calls for a celebration.

And that's just what the eighth annual Sister City Weekend will do: mark the more-than-50-year affiliation between Hagerstown and Wesel, Germany. Live music. Family activities. German and American food. Steins frothing with bier.

The two-day celebration - which kicks off Friday, Aug. 15, with the '60s Under the Stars oldies music concert in downtown Hagerstown and continues Saturday, Aug. 16, with the Oktoberfest in August festival - commemorates Hagerstown's German heritage and long-standing relationship with Wesel.

About 4,000 people are expected to attend the festivities, proceeds from which benefit the exchange program between the cities, says Karen Giffin, spokeswoman for the City of Hagerstown.


"It's growing very much," says Charles Sekula, chairman of the Augustoberfest (the event's former name) Charitable Foundation. "It's a year-round process. It's a combined effort of many people from all walks of life."

City officials, business sponsors and volunteers make the Sister City Weekend possible, Sekula says. Between 100 and 150 volunteers man the food, drink and merchandise booths, and perform other duties, throughout the weekend, says Phil Kelly, event co-chairman.

While Oktoberfest in August is steeped in German tradition, '60s Under the Stars is a trip down America's musical memory lane. The event will feature performances by rock 'n' roll singer Lou Christie, The Regents, Motown's The Contours and Joey Dee and the Starliters of "Peppermint Twist" fame.

Christie became a national teen idol with such multimillion-selling hits as "The Gypsy Cried," "Two Faces Have I," "Lightnin' Strikes," "Rhapsody in the Rain" and "I'm Gonna Make You Mine." He's appeared on Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars and is credited with influencing musicians Elton John, John Lennon and Madonna.

The Regents left the audience screaming for more at last year's show - and the three-man group is coming back to deliver. The group's "Barbara Ann" skyrocketed to the top of the Billboard chart, and The Regents continue to please audiences with that hit and such others as "Runaround" and "Liar."

The Contours boast the fastest climbing hit in Motown Records history. "Do You Love Me" became the nation's No. 2 record just two weeks after its release in 1962. Later songs, including "Shake Sherrie," "Can You Do It" and "Jerk Like Me" cemented The Contours' reputation as a high-energy group with a penchant for choreography and audience participation.

And to keep the hit parade going, Joey Dee and the Starliters will have some popular singles to choose from: "Peppermint Twist," "Shout," "Mashed Potatoes," "Ya Ya" and "What Kind of Love Is This?" "Peppermint Twist" sold more than four million copies. Joey Dee and the Starliters have updated their classic act with comedy and dance to appeal to both time-tested fans and new listeners alike.

The '60s Under the Stars concert starts at 6 p.m., one hour after the hospitality tent - which will feature both American and German food and beverages - opens for business at the North Potomac Street parking lot. The concert's outdoor venue in downtown Hagerstown will have seating available for up to 1,800 people, Giffin says.

Classic car fans can check out the car show on the premises from 5 to 10 p.m. The show is open to custom street rods, classics, two-wheel-drive trucks and other vehicles produced through 1972. Cash prizes of $75, $50 and $25 will be awarded to the best vehicles in the car show, and dash plaques will be given to the first 100 vehicles registered for the event.

Saturday's party starts with the opening of the Bier Garten and hospitality tent at 11 a.m. Attendees can sample such German favorites as bratwurst with sauerkraut or sauted peppers and onions and Bavarian roasted pork with homemade spatzl (egg noodles) and apple-flavored red cabbage, says Sekula, a native of Munich, Germany, who owns Schmankerl Stube Bavarian restaurant in Hagerstown.

Burgers and barbecue also will be on hand for those with more domestic taste buds, he says.

The sounds of live German music will continue throughout the evening, with folk band Stettholz Musikanten and The Manni Daum Show with the Matt Lebar Ensemble alternating turns on the stage.

Launched in 1985 in the small town of Stettholz in Germany's Black Forest, Stettholz Musikanten features seven musicians known for energetic performances. The group built a following throughout Europe before coming to the United States for the first time in 1994 to perform at the Heritage Festival in New Ulm, Minn., and the German Festival in Milwaukee.

Oktoberfest in August's other featured act boasts Germany's top folk music entertainer - Manni Daum - and polka king Matt Lebar, a musician and songwriter who was born in Slovenia but now lives in Toronto. The Manni Daum Show with the Matt Lebar Ensemble is punctuated with sketches and jokes to keep the audience on its toes.

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