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Augustoberfest an education in German culture, folklore

August 21, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • Michael Leggett and Monica Davids dance the Tiroler Figurentanz at Augustoberfest in Hagerstown on Saturday. The two are part of the Alt-Washingtonia group.
Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

Four hundred fifty pounds of bratwurst. Four thousand servings of spatzle noodles. And, of course, 70 kegs of Bavarian beer.

This is, after all, Augustoberfest -- a celebration of all things German. And that includes food and drink.

About 3,000 people are expected to head to downtown Hagerstown this weekend to take part in the Hub City's version of Oktoberfest.

The event continues today, with gates opening at 10:30 a.m.

This is the 15th year for the festival, said Karen Giffin, the City of Hagerstown's director of community affairs. It is run by the Augustoberfest Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

The festival draws a good local crowd as well as tourists from across the country, she said.

Giffin said people often question why the celebration is held in August.

It began, she said, with a family reunion hosted by Jane Burhans, wife of former Mayor Winslow F. Burhans, who helped initiate the Sister City relationship between Hagerstown and Wesel, Germany.

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"Also," she said, "It's easier to get bands, which are usually booked during October."

"People don't seem to mind that it's held during the summer," Giffin said. "Everyone has a great time."

Jill Colbert, chairwoman of this year's Augustoberfest, said while the event has a party atmosphere, it also is the perfect way to educate people about German culture and folklore.

It also pays tribute to the area's rich German heritage.

In addition to food and music, Colbert said there are dance demonstrations, storytelling sessions, vendors selling German merchandise and children's activities in the Kinderwunderland tent.

Saturday's activities included a volksmarch, a noncompetitive walk that followed 5K and 10K routes along the streets of Hagerstown.

"Augustoberfest is very family-oriented," Colbert said. "There's something for everyone."

Colbert said the planning committee will take a month off following the festival and then will begin meeting to "strategize for next year."

For Jesus Sanchez, Augustoberfest reminds him of home.

"My name doesn't sound German, but that's where I was born and raised," he said.

Sanchez said his parents are from Spain, but met and married while both were working in Germany.

Sanchez, who lives in Chambersburg, Pa., attended Saturday's festival with his wife and two children.

"Listening to the music, enjoying the food and beer, it really eases my homesickness," he said.

Sanchez has lived in this area for several years while working for Volvo Powertrain North America.

Sanchez said he heard about Augustoberfest last year, but because of business travel wasn't able to attend.

"I'm happy I was able to be here today," he said. "The food is just like what we have in Germany. It's very authentic."

"We're as authentic as what you would find in Munich," said Charles Sekula, vice chairman of the festival and a native of Germany. "We're a miniversion of Oktoberfest."

Sekula said he and Giffin are two original committee people still associated with Augustoberfest.

"It's been very successful over the years," he said of the event. "But we couldn't do it without volunteers and sponsors. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts."

Giffin said net proceeds from Augustoberfest support a scholarship program that sends local students to Wesel.

If you go



What: Augustoberfest

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

Where: Central Parking Lot, between Franklin and Washington streets, Hagerstown

Cost: $5; free for ages 12 and younger

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