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Augustoberfest

Local German heritage event draws tourists

Local German heritage event draws tourists

August 26, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - Dancers performed traditional Bavarian routines downtown on Saturday to help re-create the feel of a German Oktoberfest.

With temperatures reaching the upper 90s, hundreds sipped beer and sampled bratwurst at the aptly named Augustoberfest, the local version of the Oktoberfest held in Germany.

One couple experienced their first Augustoberfest Saturday, sharing a large ceramic stein filled with beer.

Her husband loves Hagerstown, said Susan Kempton of State College, Pa.

"It's a great old town," Kenny Kempton said.

Both said they enjoyed their first Augustoberfest.

"The only problem is it's too hot, but you can't do anything about that," Kenny Kempton said.

Many of Saturday's festival-goers, like the Kemptons, were from out of town.

On a typical weekend, about 50 people stop in at the visitor center downtown, said Bob Tracey, a travel counselor at the Visitor Welcome Center on North Potomac Street.

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"It's very unusual to have in excess of 100 people come in here," he said. "That's what we've had today, more than 100."

Many of those who signed the guest book were from other states, including New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina, he said.

Some visitors quite familiar with German food and dancing also stopped in at the visitor center.

"We had some Germans in here who could barely speak English," Tracey said.

Event organizers expected about 2,000 people Saturday for the 12th annual Augustoberfest, and 1,500 today, said Charles Sekula, event co-chairman and owner of Schmankerl Stube Bavarian Restaurant.

A German chef helped prepare the schweinebraten, or Bavarian pork roast dinner, spaetzle (egg noodles), red cabbage, bratwurst, sauerkraut and Bavarian potato salad.

"We try to be as authentic as possible," Sekula said.

Two German beers - Hacker-Pschorr and Paulaner - also were offered Saturday.

The dance group Alt Washingtonia Schuhplattler Verein of Washington, D.C., performed several traditional Bavarian dances, with an announcer explaining the cultural significance of each. During once dance, men portrayed miners venturing beneath the earth.

Several men dressed in lederhosen (traditional Bavarian pants and suspenders) performed a song using alphorns, which are long wooden horns carved out of a single tree, an announcer explained to the crowd gathered under large white tents.

Gloria and Jan Haas of Dillsburg, Pa., stumbled upon Augustoberfest during a drive through the city last year, he said.

The couple enjoys music and is of German descent, so returning to Augustoberfest was a must.

"If we didn't enjoy is, we wouldn't have been back," he said.

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