Annual Oktoberfest overflows with German sounds and flavors

For Rosemarie Winklmeier, Oktoberfest celebrations are a reminder of home.

Winklmeier came to the U.S. from Germany in the late 1950s and raised her children and grandchildren here. Since her parents and husband died, she said, she hasn’t had a chance to make it back to her home country in quite some time. Until she can visit again, Oktoberfest will have to do.

“I come as often as I can manage,” she said. “It’s fun and it makes people happy.”

With her traditional German hat and dress, Winklmeier was easy to spot in the crowd Saturday evening at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. She and her family were joined by hundreds of other community members for the church’s Oktoberfest. The 17th annual celebration at 1234 Ky. marks the start of the autumn season the way any good community festival should — with lots of food.

“We just want to throw a party,” church member and volunteer Angie Evers said.

There was plenty of homemade traditional German food to go around. With a menu including wienerschnitzel, bierock, bratwurst, cabbage roll, sweet sauerkraut and potato salad, the church needed a lot of help getting ready. Ellen Shobe, church member and volunteer, said volunteers showed up as early as 7 a.m. Saturday to set up, but many had been working since Monday preparing the food.

The Oktoberfest attendees also enjoyed five types of German beer and a hard cider. German-style beer is different from other brews, beer garden volunteer Josh Burnett said, because German purity law allows only water, hops and malt. This year the biergarten featured Free State Brewing Co.’s Oktoberfest beer, which Burnett said is maltier, with a robust flavor.

“It’s really exceptional. There’s no way we couldn’t pour it,” he said.

A traditional band played accordion music, and games were set up for the kids. Proceeds from food and beer sales go to the general church fund, Evers said.

Winklmeier wasn’t the only one dressed in traditional German clothing. This was Montana native Scott McCarthy’s first event in Lawrence since moving here a few months ago, so he decided to go as traditional as possible. McCarthy, who calls himself a “serial costume wearer,” wore lederhosen, high socks and hat.

“You have to have your lederhosen ready when Oktoberfest comes around,” he joked.