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Augustoberfest showcases city's German roots

August 27, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - Beer, culture, history, food and more beer brought a group of faraway friends with an affinity for German culture Saturday to the 11th annual Augustoberfest in downtown Hagerstown.

Harvey Snyder, 46, of Vienna, Va., along with a friend from Scottsdale, Ariz., sipped beer from steins beneath a white tent perched in Hagerstown's central lot Saturday after participating in a 10-kilometer Volksmarch through town.

Bavarian musicians played instruments and danced, while volunteers poured German beer and Miller Lite for event-goers.

Charles Sekula, co-chair of the Augustoberfest Charitable Foundation and owner of Schmankerl Stube Bavarian Restaurant, said he expected between 3,000 and 5,000 people to attend the weekend festival. The Schmankerl Stube donated food for the event, he said.

Sekula, a German native who opened his 58 S. Potomac St. restaurant in 1988, said Hagerstown's German roots were not largely celebrated before the restaurant opened or before the Augustoberfest kicked off 11 years ago.

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The foundation sponsors a youth exchange program between Hagerstown and its sister city, Wesel, Germany, Sekula said. Money raised from the sale of the event's $5 tickets goes toward the program and toward next year's festival, he said.

Sharon Kelly, 21, of Hagerstown, spent a year in Heidelberg, Germany, studying German through the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her sister, Susan Kelly, participated in the Wesel exchange program, she said.

On Saturday, Sharon Kelly, wearing German garb, set up a "starving student" jewelry kiosk, and marveled at the difference in accents between the Bavarians performing and those she encountered in southwest Germany.

She said she enjoys festivals such as Augustoberfest because they are reminiscent of actual German festivals.

"The American culture doesn't have these festivals and celebrations," she said. "I think we borrow them from whatever culture we feel ties to us, and use it as an excuse to get together."

Lauren Shubert, 5, a Pangborn Elementary School kindergartner, said she thought the "balloons" were the festival's highlight. She held a balloon tied in the shape of a flower.

Sekula said about $60,000 - from sponsorships and from the foundation - was raised to put on this year's event, which continues today in the central parking lot.

The hospitality tent opens at 10:30 a.m., and the festival officially "rolls out the barrels" at 11 a.m.

Stephen J. Lenhart, former president of Hagerstown/Wesel Sister City Affiliation, and Janette M. Burhans, the wife of three-term Hagerstown mayor Winslow Burhans, and driving force for the festival, were to be honored at the event Saturday, said Karen Giffin, city spokeswoman.

Both Lenhart and Janette Burhans died this year, she said.

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