Generations turn out for Oktoberfest in New Milford
NEW MILFORD — What began as a royal wedding celebration in Germany two centuries ago has expanded to become a tradition for families and fun at the Arion Singing Society’s annual Oktoberfest.
About 2,000 people enjoyed the traditional German music, food and beverages under a tent this weekend at the 17th annual Oktoberfest.
“It started small and grew to this,” said Gunther Bohnsack, the society’s president.
When Bohnsack started the festival years ago at the request of one of the society members, only a few vendors participated and the tent was only a quarter of its present size. More vendors and a children’s section were added over the years.
Oktoberfest is the society’s biggest fundraiser. The proceeds run the club for the next year.
The group, which celebrates its 105th anniversary in May, rehearses most Wednesdays and performs twice a year, including once in June with about seven other German choral groups from New England.
David Romeika has been one of the festival’s vendors since the beginning. He said he looks forward to it every year and always makes the drive from Maine because of the club’s hospitality and the event itself.
“Anyone who misses the festival is missing out on a fantastic time,” he said.
Participants shared similar thoughts.
Bohnsack said he’s starting to see familiar and new faces each year.
“It feels good,” he said. “You know you’re doing something they enjoy and come back to.”
Dancing and music are two of the festival’s biggest annual attractions.
“The dance floor is always full in the evenings,” Bohnsack said.
Sunday afternoon was filled with traditional music, including some light-hearted German drinking songs often heard in the beer gardens overseas. Bohnsack said the festival has connections to the beer-making process.
He said brewers needed to empty their barrels to prepare for the next season and the festival was a good way to do that.
One of the biggest features of Munich’s Oktoberfest is beer. More than 6.3 million visitors drank 6.5 million liters during last year’s two-week festival. The New Milford event averages between 60 and 64 barrels during its two-day run.
New Milford’s Oktoberfest has always been a family festival,” said Karla Roder, the society’s vice president.
She said she sees people come with their children, passing along the tradition. German students from the high school help out.
“Every culture has their history and their traditions, so why not nurture ours and pass it on to the new generation,” Roder said.
One of the new faces this year was Jill Gorman, of Kent, who was there with her mother.
“Even though it’s small, it’s awesome,” she said.
This was Gorman’s first time at Oktoberfest and she said she really had a chance to learn about the festival. She said she is inspired to look for others.
“I had nothing but a great time,” she said.
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