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Hagerstown's Augustoberfest brings full-bellied melodies

August 23, 2008|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

HAGERSTOWN -- Merrymakers in dirndl and lederhosen waved placards with German lyrics as they sang and frolicked on the dance floor, leading the crowd in traditional, button box Bavarian songs.

Between bites of spatzle, bratwurst, pretzels and sauerkraut, spectators crooned back full-bellied melodies. Many raised their arms in the air, clutching mugs full of lager as they swayed to the beat.

German native Ulrike "Vicky" Johnson, 44, of Hedgesville, W.Va., was among the crowd gathered Saturday under the festival tent in downtown Hagerstown's Central Parking Lot for the 13th annual Augustoberfest.

Johnson met her husband Dan, 43, while she was vacationing in the Martinsburg, W.Va., area, then moved to the U.S. in 1999. This year was the first time she attended Hagerstown's Augustoberfest.

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"Everything here is from Bavaria," Johnson said. "I like it. It's nice."

Johnson said the beer, the tent, the music and the crowd's enthusiastic "prosts" -- the German equivalent of toasts or cheers -- reminded her of the original Oktoberfest, which she attended once in Munich, Germany.

That Bavarian authenticity is a key standard among Augustoberfest planners. Charles Sekula, vice chairman of the Augustoberfest Charitable Foundation, hails from the Munich area and owns Schmankerl Stube Bavarian Restaurant in Hagerstown. Clad in brown leather bundhose knickers and knit stockings, Sekula expressed his pride in the event.

"This is one of the most authentic venues in trying to copy the Munich Oktoberfest," Sekula said. "I am ecstatic. This turnout is phenomenal. We are finally at a point where we have proved that that this event is worth coming out for. Hagerstown is featuring something no one else has featured."

Sekula said many cities host Bavarian festivals in October. Hagerstown festival planners host the event in August to set it apart, drawing better crowds and entertainment.

Sekula estimated that more than 3,000 people would attend Augustoberfest, which continues today.

Karen Giffin, director of communications for the City of Hagerstown, said the goal of the event is to educate the citizens of Hagerstown about the city's German heritage and serve as a tourism attraction.

Liz Bujosa, 47, of Hagerstown, went to the festival with her father, Bill Bujosa, 73, of Rome, N.Y. Liz wore a purple head wreath with streamers as she reminisced about the Bujosa family living in Germany while Bill served in the Air Force.

"I remember my mother and my aunts singing these songs ... There is still a lot of German in us," Bujosa said. "Dad goes to (Bavarian) festivals all over. This is a very good one."

Dotti Bush, 61, of Baltimore, travels around to Bavarian festivals with the Baltimore Clacker Club, a group that crafts whimsical tambourine-like instruments to play along with Bavarian music. This was her third year at Augustoberfest.

"We absolutely love it," Bush said. "The entertainment is fantastic. It's better than any other festival, really."




If you go

What: Augustoberfest

When: Today, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Central Parking Lot, first block of North Potomac Street, Hagerstown

Cost: $5; free for ages 12 and younger who are accompanied by a paid participant

For information, go to www.augustoberfest.org

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