PROST! — Springville Mayor Bill Krebs pours a mug of frosty Spaten, sporting his Oktoberfest best. Photos by Joshua Gordon.
SPRINGVILLE — The weather was damp, but it would take more than an early fall downpour to keep the thirsty crowd from raising their steins at Springville’s Oktoberfest on Sept. 26.
Three bands, 13 beers, sweet treats from the Gelato Gypsy, balloon animals for the kids (and the kids at heart), a hot dog eating contest and more sausage and German potato salad than you could shake a schnitzel at were on offer at Springville Oktoberfest, held at Fireman's Park on Waverly Street.
“I’m blown away by the amount of people that came in pouring rain,” said Jeanne Ellis, chief organizer for the Springville Area Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event.
Springville Mayor Bill Krebs – decked out in lederhosen – kicked off the festivities by tapping the first keg with a wooden mallet around 2 p.m. Saturday.
“Gordon Biersch donated the first one to us,” said Ellis, noting it was “a traditional, wooden keg with a brass spigot.”
“From the very beginning [of the first Oktoberfest], the mayor taps the first keg,” she said. It’s a tradition Ellis brought over from her years stationed in Germany with the military.
ZICKE ZACKE — Thirsty festival-goers could choose from a selection of 13 beers, including traditional brews like Spaten, Hofbrau, and Paulaner.
In the eight years since Springville began hosting its own version of the German festival, it has undergone some changes, and started at least one traditional of its own.
“Every year, it’s been something,” said Ellis, noting that the festival is no stranger to rain, snow and even “a stock market crash.”
Though rains earlier in the day caused a tent to collapse, Ellis said volunteers were able to raise another in its place. “It was a long day,” she said.
By evening, the weather had broken, bringing more patrons into the park. “Parking wasn't an issue this year – because of the rain,” said Ellis. Even so, plenty of locals braved the wet weather, umbrellas in hand, including at least one person who brought a patio umbrella, which, by press time, was still unclaimed and is now part of a lost-and-found collection.
Dave Field, president of the Chamber of Commerce, was impressed with the crowd. “It’s a good turnout,” he said. “It's fun – all your neighbors are out here. There's good food, good beer, good music – if you live in Springville, how often can you do something like this, on a Saturday night?”
Those who came were treated to the music of the Frankfurters, a traditional German band based in Buffalo, played the main pavilion. “Not everyone likes German music,” said Ellis, which is why organizers booked the Springville Jazz Orchestra and members of local blues band Soul Barbecue to play the bar area.
Earlier in the day, festivalgoers competed in a hotdog eating contest. Zweigle’s sponsored the competition, donating hot dogs, prizes and a representative to help with cooking. The winner of the competition got 12 pounds of meat, with another 8 and 6 pounds going to the second and third place winners. There was enough meat left over, says Ellis, that the chamber of commerce was able to donate 27 pounds of hotdogs to the Salem Lutheran Church of Springville.
TOOTING THEIR OWN HORN — The Frankfurters, featuring a pair of alphorns, entertained the crowd with traditional German tunes.
The festival also hosted a Best Apfel Dessert contest. Julie Nunnweiler took home top honors, followed by Linda Lund in second and Julie's husband, Paul Nunnweiler, in third place.
Hungry attendees could choose from all sorts of traditional fare, including brats, sauerkraut, German potato salad, curry ketchup (a Munich favorite, according to Ellis) and a bratwurst burger on a pretzel roll, made especially for the festival by the Meat Shoppe in Springville.
The burgers were popular enough to sell out before the end of the night. “Everybody was coming up toward the end of the evening and saying, ‘you got any more of those burgers left?’, and we're like, ‘nope, sorry!’” Ellis said. “They were really, really good.”
The food and music went over well enough, according to organizers, but it's not Oktoberfest without the beer, and there was plenty to be had. Volunteers poured what Ellis calls the “three traditional Munich beers” – Spaten, Hofbrau and Paulaner – along with almost a dozen other brews until last call at 10 p.m.
“It’s all about the beer,” said Ellis.
A European car show scheduled for the day was a wash, and a number of vendors had pulled out, due to what Ellis called “unforeseen circumstances.“ Even so, Ellis heard plenty of positive feedback. “A lot of people are saying it's amazing, and everybody loved the food, loved the beer, the band in the bar, people were really, really, really impressed with,” she said.
Ellis said she's already working on plans for next year's Oktoberfest, scheduled for Sept. 27.
She promises a new line-up of beers, more brat burgers and the festival's first out-of-state acts: The Squeezettes, an award-winning Wisconsin Polka band, and the RauenBrothers, a Wisconsin blues group with ties to the Buffalo area.
“There’s plenty of room to grow,“ the event organizer said. “We always try something different” – rain or shine.