Hagerstown's German heritage festival features beer, brats and Bavarian bands

August 24, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • Members of the Alt-Washingtonia Schuhplattler Verein danced and played traditional Bavarian music at the 2010 Augustoberfest in Hagerstown. The band will return for this years festival.
File photo

In a few short weeks, the Lord Mayor of Munich will tap the first keg of ale and officially open Oktoberfest.

But if you’re not able to don your lederhosen and travel across the Atlantic — bottoms up! Hagerstown has its own version and you don’t have to wait until autumn.

It’s Augustoberfest — the local German homage to beer, brats and bands.

This year’s two-day event will be held on Saturday, Aug. 27, and Sunday, Aug. 28, in the central parking lot in downtown Hagerstown.

About 3,000 people are expected to attend.

For the past 16 years, the local celebration has been an end-of-summer tradition — a chance to raise a stein and enjoy all things Bavarian.

But if it looks, sounds and tastes like Oktoberfest, why is it held in August?

It’s a question frequently presented to Karen Giffin, City of Hagerstown director of community affairs and one of two founding members still serving on the current Augustoberfest board.

The other founding member is Charles Sekula, owner of the Schmankerl Stube Bavarian Restaurant — and it was Sekula, Giffin said, who came up with the idea of taking a 200-year-old tradition and giving it a new twist.

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

The reunion was attended by people from all over the world, Giffin said.  At the same time, the city was dedicating a renovated building — the Elizabeth Hager Center. So an idea was hatched to hold a German festival in August in conjunction with the two events.

“The name Augustoberfest was coined,” Giffin said.

“We also found that in August it is easier to secure entertainment and that these types of festivals are held any time between June and October,” she added. “Since then, it has been a successful summertime event.”

The festival is run by the Augustoberfest Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit organization, whose key role is to host the celebration and support scholarships for exchange students to Hagerstown’s Sister City. Jill Colbert is the foundation chairperson.

While Augustoberfest has a party atmosphere, Giffin said it also is an opportunity to educate people about German culture and folklore.

As it has in the past, this year’s festival will feature authentic German entertainment, including performances by Die Schlauberger, the Heidi and Heimat Echo with alphorns and Alt Washingtonia Schuhplattler Verein.

And it wouldn’t be a German celebration without beverages and food, such as bratwurst, Bavarian roasted pork and spaetzle. Special tickets are available for the Fruhschoppen — a popular German brunch which will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.  American cuisine also will be available both days of the festival.

There will be a Kinderwunderland or children’s area, which will provide a variety of activities, including folktales from Germany and Bavaria and arts and crafts. Pump It Up of Hagerstown, an inflatable party zone, will give away balloons and prizes. Faces will be painted by the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts Parents’ Guild; and a Punch and Judy show will be held from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday

A vendor area will feature German crafts and other items.

Prior to Saturday’s festival opening, a volksmarch — a noncompetitive walk — will be held beginning at 8 a.m. through City Center and historic City Park. Walkers can select a 10-kilometer or 6-kilometer trail.

The festival will be held rain or shine under a huge tent.

If you go ...

WHAT: Augustoberfest

WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 27, and Sunday, Aug. 28

WHERE: Central parking lot, downtown Hagerstown

COST: $5 a day, free for children 12 and younger

CONTACT: For more information, call 301-739-8577, ext. 116

MORE: A full list of activities and details about this year’s Augustoberfest can be found at

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