By Ilona Merritt
A tent under the Florida sky, cumulus clouds overhead, an accordionist playing, the delicious aroma of Bratwurst sizzling on the grill permeating the air … top this off with cold beer and you may feel as though you are truly in “Bavarian Heaven” right here in Sun City Center. On October 6, 7 and 8, all this will be brought to you by the Old Castle Restaurant in the Home Depot Shopping Center. Merriment begins on Friday, from 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon with closing times planned for 9 p.m. Live entertainment, food and beer will be available under the tent and inside the restaurant. New this year will be vendors offering their wares.
Oktoberfest is the world’s largest Folkfest, which has been held annually since 1810 in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. It is a time-honored tradition which has spread to other cities across the world modeling the Oktoberfest celebrations after the original Munich event. The Oktoberfest is held at the Wisn, after the colloquial name for the fairgrounds, Theresa’s Field. However, the official opening takes place at the Rathaus with its Glockenspiel (the Town Hall with its chiming clock) in the heart of Munich. Every year, on the third Saturday in September, the carillon bells play as the various dignitaries, the Munich child (the emblem on the coat of arms of Munich), and the Mayor of Munich (Bürgermeister) arrive at the Town Hall. All are decked out in their finest emblazed with medals. The Mayor wears his official Kings chain (Königskette) a sign of his office and honor. The tower clock chimes and on the twelfth chime the Mayor taps the first keg and proclaims the Oktoberfest has begun.
It is to be expected that when the German American Club of Sun City Center was formed, an Oktoberfest would be an important part of their activities. Since 1999 many, many beer kegs have been tapped in our Community hall, and a mountain of Sausages (Wurst) has been consumed there. In 2014 the club celebrated its 15th Anniversary with a special opening of their Oktoberfest when Ilona Merritt, former German American Club president, emulated the Munich opening right here in Sun City Center. Complete with carillon music, Tower bells chiming, our own dignitaries (present and former officers of the club) marched into the Community Hall led by Jane Keegan (CA President at that time) who had been invested into her role as Bürgermeister, wearing a Kings chain made specifically for her by Ilona. Our own Münchner Kindl was also was present and she brought the gift of white radishes tearing in salt which is a traditional food served with beer in Germany.
This year’s German American Club will offer the renowned European entertainers, Eva Adams and her husband, who will be performing for their Oktoberfest in the Community Hall on October 12. They are accomplished vocalists, play guitar, accordion and keyboard and will be performing modern German music as well as waltzes, polkas and will include American favorites. Also this year, the German American Club Folk Dancers who will be performing traditional German Folk Dances. The Oktoberfest meal consists of roast pork with sauerkraut, bratwurst, mashed potatoes/gravy to include salad, desserts, coffee, and tea, other drinks are BYOB. German American Club members pay $22 and guests $26. All residents of Sun City Center, Kings Point, and guests are welcome. No need to be German, speak German, wear a dirndl, or lederhosen to enjoy this fun party. For additional information please call Fred Rathke at 813 938-4845 or Paul Buerkle at 813-938-3049.
PHOTO: These are the original German-American Club Folk dancers having just completed the Kronen Tanz. A Folk dance under the crown dating back several centuries. (Credit: Ilona Merritt)