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Augustoberfest a safe haven for people outrunning storm

August 28, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Alt Washingtonia Schuhplattler Verein members Andrew Pontzer, left, 6, his father, Andy Pontzer, and older brother, Eddie Pontzer, 11, watch other members perform Saturday afternoon during Augustoberfest in downtown Hagerstown.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

With Hurricane Irene making its way up the East Coast, Joi Lopez and her husband, Dwayne Wilkins, decided to escape Baltimore and head inland.

Wilkins said they looked at a storm map for a place out of the hurricane's path and settled on Hagerstown.

When they stopped in Hagerstown's downtown visitors bureau, they heard about the coincidental treat around the corner — Augustoberfest.

"When she saw it, she lit up," Wilkins said of his wife.

Lopez said she has longed for some German food.

Plus, Germany is where she was born, she said. Her father was stationed there with the U.S. Army.

It made for a good birthday present. On Sunday, Lopez is turning 26.

This year's Augustoberfest — a summer version of the German tradition known as Oktoberfest — is the 16th in Hagerstown.

Karen Giffin, the city's director of community affairs, said the event celebrates Hagerstown's German heritage and its sister city relationship with Wesel, Germany, which started in 1952.

In a giant tent in the city's central parking lot off North Potomac Street, hundreds of people ate German food, hoisted beer steins and reveled in music and dance.

Wilkins said he liked the bratwurst and sauerkraut and enjoyed his first tastes of red cabbage, spätzle noodles and Bavarian potato salad.

Children gathered in a smaller tent to make crafts and hear Cindy Blackstock tell stories.

The event will continue on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Although predictions earlier in the week put Hagerstown in a potential path of the hurricane, the storm veered away, leaving a day of nice weather, once a brief morning rain passed.

Like Lopez and Wilkins, others might have come to Hagerstown to get away from the hurricane.

Working at the visitors center, Roger Keller said the log recorded guests from Easton and Westminster in Maryland; Herndon, Va.; Charlotte, N.C.; Florida; and Rehoboth Beach and Dover in Delaware, as well as Sweden.

At least some of those visitors reported that they were "just running ahead of the storm," Keller said.

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If you go

What: Augustoberfest

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

Where: Central parking lot, off North Potomac Street, Hagerstown

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