CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

September 25, 2011

Community heritage comes to forefront in Oktoberfest

By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — This year marks the 30th anniversary of Oktoberfest, a much anticipated annual event in downtown Cullman. The community celebration is recognized as the harbinger of fall, when crisp apples, colorful pumpkins, gourds, mounds of sweet potatoes, and other local fruits and vegetables are ripe for harvest.

The convivial atmosphere, entertainment, various vendors and a multitude of scheduled events brings in lots of tourists, as well as giving Cullman Countians a place to gather to celebrate the changing seasons and their German heritage.

Oktoberfest comes at just the right time of year, the first days of sweater weather, a time when farmers can take a break from a long hot summer of hard work, and when people are ready to relax and catch their breath before winter sets in.

 According to Ernest Hauk, spokesman for the Oktoberfest Board, “The idea of a German festival was conceived around 1978. The local historical society had begun having Sunday afternoon ceremonies at the museum gazebo, with speeches about local history and a German band. This sparked an interest in our history among the community,” Hauk explained.

Hauk recognized Edna Earle Arnold, Mary Carson Glasscock, and other members of the historical society at the time, as being instrumental in getting the festival off and running. Cullman’s first Oktoberfest was held October 9-17, 1982.

In the early days the vendors set up on the streets and in tents near the same area where the Festhalle Market Platz now holds pride of place in the city’s revamped warehouse district.

“Once the Festhalle was built everyone moved there,” Hauk recalled. “When it first began there were sometimes gatherings of 20-25 people, now there are times when several hundred people are gathered during the days of the festival, although that number fluctuates from daytime through the evening depending on what activities are scheduled.”

The festival attracts people for any number of reasons — some love to hear the German music and dance the polka, others like the authentic German food offered by various vendors, restaurants and other organizations. Some people just like to socialize, sitting at the outdoor cafés and watching the people who come to shop as they browse through the offerings at the Festhalle Market Platz and the Sacred Heart street sale, or take part in the many other activities.

 “Oktoberfest endears people to this community, focuses on our pride and heritage and has been carried on by people who want to preserve that legacy,” said Hauk.

Hauk has become a driving force on the Oktoberfest Board, and is just one of the keepers of the flame, so to speak, of the background and history of the festival, the city and the county. Oktoberfest is not a function of the City or the County of Cullman, but rather of the Oktoberfest Board, a non-profit organization whose members rotate in and out about every four years. 

This year, the board which governs Oktoberfest was faced with the dilemma of whether or not to serve beer at the festival. Since the city voted to serve alcohol in licensed businesses in the city, this has been a hot topic among the citizens of Cullman. “The Oktoberfest Board discussed it at length, and out of respect for both those who were opposed to and in favor of the vote, we wanted to ease into this new realm slowly and carefully, making sure that we did it the right way,” Hauk explained. “Since this is the first year, and we don’t really know how it will effect Oktoberfest, we decided to abstain from serving alcohol.”

Hauk did not rule out serving beer in the future, but for now, the status quo prevails, at least in the open, public areas of the festival near the Festhalle Market Platz. There will, however, be a biergarten in the Rotunda, sponsored by Smith Farms. Beer will also be available at four other venues during Oktoberfest.

“I think the whole idea is just a great way to make sure that we don’t ever lose our heritage,” said Hauk. “So many people have been involved over the past 30 years and lots of them have learned that oral history was the best form of passing down traditions through the generations. Many of these volunteers worked hard to emphasize that our German heritage was a thing to be proud of.” That oral history will come alive during Oktoberfest with Stories From The Past Living History Cemetery Tour, hosted by the historical society, which will also host walking tours in the city. Visitors can travel by bus from the Festhalle Market Platz to the cemetery or join the city walking tour.

 The ribbon cutting will be the first Saturday of Oktoberfest at the Festhalle Market Platz and opening ceremonies will be Sunday, Oct. 2.

This year’s festivities will reflect the 30 years of tradition, with the election of the burgermeister being one of the most cherished traditions. There will be hearty German fare served up with flair at several venues over the course of the week. The Boy Scouts will serve meals as well as TP Country Club, the All Steak Restaurant, Rumor’s Deli, The Downtown Grill, Al’s Doghouse, Design and Dine at the Painted Bisquet, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, St. John’s Evangelical Protestant Church and St. Paul’s School will all be participating in these much anticipated evening meals for the whole community.

The downtown area, ravaged by the spring tornadoes has worked hard to clean up all the debris and most stores now have sparkling windows filled with merchandise to tempt visitors to Oktoberfest, with extended shopping hours, children’s activities, and music on Friday evening. There will be something for everyone as the festivities continue throughout the week, such as the barbecue challenge, which is new to the festival. Sanctioned by Governor Bentley as an annual event, this promises to be a crowd pleaser, with plenty of barbecue dished up by several local barbecue experts. Sponsored by the Bama Club, this event will be held at the fairgrounds. There is a $5 admission fee at the gate.

Of course, where two or more German descendants are gathered, there are always bratwursts around somewhere, and this festival is no exception. Not only will there be brats for sale by vendors, but there is a time-honored contest to see who can eat the most of the juicy treats.

On the first Saturday there will be a car show, Girl Scout Night is on Tuesday. One can enjoy the sounds of German folk music throughout the week with Die Mitternaechters and Terry Cavanagh and The Alpine Express, along with Wolfgang Moritz — a favorite of the crowds that flock to hear his accordion renditions of traditional German songs. The Wallace State Singers, Cullman High School Chorus and East and West Elementary Singers will also add their voices to the festivities. The Cullman Community Band will perform at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

There will be a photo contest, which must reflect Oktoberfest in some way. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top two winners, and a T-shirt goes to the third place winner. The photos will be used in magazines to promote Oktoberfest.

On the second Saturday the Cullman County Arts and Crafts Fair will be held at Depot Park. There will also be a shred-a-thon, and a student art show, sponsored by the Cullman Arts Counsel, both 5- and 10K runs, as well as a weiner dog race and kinder art park. The conclusion of the week-long event will be the Burgermeister Ball, held the second Saturday of Oktoberfest, at the McGukin Civic Center.

Each Wednesday during the month of September, there will be polka classes at the Donald E. Green Senior Center from 7 to 8 p.m., sponsored by the First United Methodist Church. No admission will be charged for this activity.

Schedules will be available outlining the events at the Cullman County Museum, and from local merchants. For more information, contact the Cullman County Museum, 211 2nd Ave. N.E.; 1-800-533-1258; or visit Cullman County Museum on Facebook or Twitter.



Every Day Schedule

Saturday, Oct. 1 - Saturday, Oct. 8

Anytime Geocaching: Geocaching.com enter ”35055 “ for the zip code.

9 a.m. Farmers’ Market at Festhalle Market Platz, 209 1st Avenue NE, Cullman (No farmers market on Sunday)

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cullman County Museum presents historical tours

Photography Contest: Register at the Festhalle Market Platz, fee $5. Info: 256-739-1258

Nimble Thimble Quilt Show: 2nd Avenue NE, free admission (Special hours Sunday, Oct. 2, 1 to 5 p.m.) 1-800-533-1258

3:30-4:30: Children’s Activities at the Cullman County Library, 200 Clark Street, NE, Cullman (No activities Friday, Saturday or Sunday) Sponsored by Cullman County Library - free admission

Daily German Meals Offered

11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Rumor’s Deli & Coffee House, 105 1st Ave. NE, 256-737-0911, carryouts available

Friday: 5 to 9 p.m. Rumors Deli & Coffee House; Friday night German menu only

10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Boy Scouts German Meals, Festhalle Market Platz, located at 209 1st Ave. NE

Traditional German Music at Festhalle Market Platz

Wolfgang Moritz will perform from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1; 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, Tuesday, Oct. 4, Wednesday, Oct. 5, and Friday, Oct. 7.

Die Mitternaechters will perform from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4

Terry Cavanagh and The Alpine Express will perform from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5, and Thursday, Oct. 6, at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, and from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at the Burgermeister Ball at the McGukin Civic Center



Schedule of Events

Saturday, Oct. 1

6 a.m.: Sacred Heart street sale,112 Second Avenue SE, 256-734-4563; www.shcullman.com Sacred Heart festival starts at 10 a.m.

8 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Oktoberfest Traditions car show at Depot Park, cruise in format, no judging. Register on site-$10 cars/trucks/motorcycles. Sponsored by Traditions Bank.

9 a.m.: Ribbon cutting.

10 a.m.: Sacred Heart Festival, 112 2nd Ave. SE, 256-734-4563. Games, food and more, fun street sale at 6 a.m. www.shcullman.com.

11:30 a.m.: Bratwurst tasting at Festhalle Market Platz. First 100 free. Sponsored by Traditions Bank.

5 to 7 p.m.: St Paul’s dinner, 510 3rd Ave SE (school gym). $10/adult and $5/child. Contact: 256-734-3821. Entertainment by Wolfgang Moritz.

6 to 8 p.m.: Stories from the Past Living History-Cemetery Tour, 211 First Avenue, NE. First bus will leave at 5:40 p.m. from the Festhalle Market. Tickets are $8/adult, $5/18 months through 6 years. Sponsored by Cullman County Historical Society.

Sunday, Oct. 2

1:30 p.m.: Opening ceremonies at Festhalle Market Platz, 201 First Ave. NE, Miss Oktoberfest Contest, 2011 Burgermeister Installation and Cullman High School German Band.

3 to 5 p.m.: Combined Church Choir Concert at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Free admission, refreshments afterwards. Info: 256-338-0432.

6 to 8 p.m.: Stories from the Past Living History-Cemetery Tour, 211 First Avenue, NE. First bus will leave at 5:40 p.m. from the Festhalle Market. $8/adult, $5/18 months through 6 years. Sponsored by Cullman County Historical Society.

Monday, Oct. 3

5 to 7 p.m.: St. John’s Oktoberfest dinner, 512 2nd Ave SE. Cost $10, entertainment provided. Info: 256-734-0344/256-734-0582.

5:30 to 6:30 p.m.: Cullman Community Band at Festhalle Market Platz.

5:30 to 11 p.m.: Biergarten at The Rotunda, nightly events, must show valid photo ID. Info: 256-737-0505. Sponsored by Smith Farms.

7 to 8:15 p.m.: Candlelight Walking Tour in downtown Cullman. Register for this guided tour at Festhalle Market Platz. Free admission.

Tuesday, Oct. 4

10 a.m. to 9 p.m.: Beer, brats and music at the Downtown Grill. Full beer menu. Info: 256-347-0524.

5:30 to 7:30 p.m.: German dinner at Cullman Regional Medical Center, 1912 Highway 157 in the Col. Cullman Room, POB II. Adults/$10; under 12 years/$5. By reservations only - contact CRMC at 256-737-2600.

5:30 to 11 p.m.: Biergarten at The Rotunda, nightly events, must show valid photo ID. Info: 256-737-0505. Sponsored by Smith Farms.

7 to 8:15 p.m.: Candlelight Walking Tour in downtown Cullman. Register for this guided tour at Festhalle Market Platz. Free admission.

Wednesday, Oct. 5

11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.: TP Country Club German lunch, 700 Pine Hill Drive. $15/peson, reservations required by calling 256-739-0738.

5 to 7 p.m.: Sacred Heart German dinner, 217 2nd Ave. SE in Family Life Center. Adults/$10; under 12 years/$5. Entertainment by Dave Leonard. Carryouts available. Info: 256-734-0980.

5:30 to 11 p.m.: Biergarten at The Rotunda nightly events, must show valid photo ID. Info: 256-737-0505. Sponsored by Smith Farms.

Thursday, Oct. 6

Senior Day at Festhalle market Platz, 209 1st Ave. NE.

10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Terry Cavanagh & The Alpine Express/music and more.

11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Seniors’ lunch at Festhalle Market Platz, free hot dog lunch to the first 500 seniors to arrive.

12:30 p.m.: Senior’s Bingo at Festhalle Market Platz. Free Bingo for seniors.

2 to 8 p.m.: Al’s BratFest, 1202 4th St. SW. Info: 256-734-2626. Sponsored by Al’s Doghouse.

5:30 to 11 p.m.: Biergarten at The Rotunda, nightly events, must show valid photo ID. Info: 256-737-0505. Sponsored by Smith Farms.

6 to 8:30 p.m.: Design & Dine. Paint your stein and enjoy a meal sponsored by The Painted Bisquet. RSVP to 256-734-6800.

6:30 to 9 p.m.: All Steaks German Buffet, 314 2nd Ave SW. Info: 256-734-4322. Live Music Tickets available in advance.

Friday, Oct. 7

5 to 7 p.m.: Christ Lutheran Church German fest cookout, 24 2nd Ave. SE. Tickets available at cookout.

5:30 to midnight: Biergarten at The Rotunda, nightly events, must show valid photo ID. Info: 256-737-0505. Sponsored by Smith Farms.

6 to 10 p.m.: Celebrate Oktoberfest with the Downtown Merchants: Music, food, and late night shopping! Kids’ activities and local artist performing. Info: 256-734-1338/256-653-1599

Saturday, Oct. 8

7 to 10 a.m.: Oktoberfest run. Registration at 7 a.m.; run at 8 a.m. $25/5K; $30/10K. Info: 256-708-3971 or chrisv@camha.com.

8 a.m.: BEAT THE BURGERMEISTER! Oktoberfest barbecue challenge at Cullman County Fairgrounds. Also, music. Beer available to those with valid photo ID. $5 gate fee. Info: 256-339-1209. Sponsored by the Bama Club.

8 a.m. to noon: Shred-A-Thon, 420 2nd Ave SW. Sponsored by First Community Bank of Cullman. Info: 256-734-4863 or www.fcbcullman.com.

8 a.m. to 5 p.m: Community Arts & Crafts Fair at Depot Park. Also food vendors and information booths. Info: 1-800-533-1258.

Kinder Art Park is free children’s arts and crafts projects. Co-sponsored by the Cullman Art Guild.

9 a.m. to midnight: Biergarten at The Rotunda, nightly events, must show valid photo ID. Info: 256-737-0505. Sponsored by Smith Farms.

9 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Hundfest Doggy Events at Depot Park, 211 2nd Ave NE. Registration at 9 a.m.; Wiener Dog Race begins at 10 a.m. Hund Blitz for all dogs (except wiener dogs) under 12 inches is at 11 a.m.

Noon: Pet parade, followed by Fun Show at 1 p.m.  Canine Good Citizen testing is at 2 p.m. Registration fee $5/class. Info: 256-507-1459

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Oktoberfest Student Sidewalk Art Show, 204 2nd Ave. NE, in front of City Hall. Info: 256-739-4321. Sponsored by the Cullman Arts Council. www.cullmanartscenter.com.

9 to 9:30 a.m.: East and West Elementary Singers, directed by Tim Clemmons

10a to 11:30 a.m.: Wallace State Singers, directed by Tiffany Richter — Wallace State Jazz Band directed by Ricky Burks.

11:30 to noon: Cullman High School Chorus, directed by Josh Agnew, performing at the Festhalle Market Platz. Free admission.

12:30 p.m.: Bratwurst Eating Contest at the Festhalle, sponsored by Piggly Wiggly. Info: 256-739-1258.

1 and 3 p.m. Historical District Bus Tour. Bus leaves from the Festhalle Market. Admission $3. Tickets are available at the Festhalle Market Platz. Sponsored by the Cullman County Historical Society.

7 to 11 p.m.: Burgermeister Ball at the McGukin Civic Center, 510 5th St. SW. Adults/$10; 19 & under/$5. Music by Terry Cavanaugh and the Alpine Express. Info: 256-739-1258.



Directions

The Cullman County Museum and Festhalle Market Platz are located in downtown Cullman Alabama. If traveling on I-65, take Exit 308 (Highway 278 exit) and turn east. Continue east approx. one mile crossing the railroad tracks bridge and turn north (left) on 2nd Ave. We are three blocks up on the corner. If traveling on U.S Highway 31, turn east at Arnold St. NE, go two blocks across the railroad tracks and you will see the museum on the corner of Arnold St. NE and 2nd Ave. NE.

For More Information

Cullman County Museum

211 2nd Ave, NE Cullman

1-800-533-1258

Check us out on Facebook or Twitter

For More Information visit www.cullmanoktoberfest.com