Looking for a good excuse to eat, drink and be merry? It's time for Tulsa's annual Germanfest. The three-day festival this weekend provides ample opportunities to fulfill all three desires.
"Germanfest is almost like a mini-Oktoberfest for lack of explaining it better," event coordinator Hannah Giles said. "It's more laid back. It's similar to many of the festivals that take place in Germany this time of year."
Oktoberfest, however, is a seasonal celebration whereas Germanfest gives visitors insight to cultural traditions as a whole.
"The purpose of Oktoberfest is to celebrate the harvest; it's very specific to Bavaria culture. Germanfest is a more general celebration of food and dance and German culture," said Becky Adrian, office manager at the German American Society of Tulsa.
The German American Society of Tulsa is a non-profit organization founded in 1980, which was shortly after Tulsa hosted its first Oktoberfest event. While the GAST did not host this inaugural event, the organization formed shortly afterward due, in part, to that initial Oktoberfest. While still considered a young organization, GAST has grown during the last 20 years into one of the most active cultural organizations in the city.
The festival started after the GAST received such a positive response as a vendor at Mayfest that it decided to break out on its own.
The event has grown steadily and is now in its sixth year. Giles and Adrian estimated about 1,000 people total stop by the festival each year. Germanfest is now the second largest event that GAST hosts, after Oktoberfest.
Beer 'n' Brats
"Obviously the food is a biggie," said Giles. Bratwurst is always a popular choice, but it's the schnitzel sandwich that's the top seller at this festival, according to Adrian. The traditional Potato Pancakes are also a crowd pleaser; Giles said in years past they've had a hard time fixing them fast enough to meet demand. Food prices range from $2 to $8.
While it doesn't cost the public anything to enter the festival, there will be plenty to purchase. Aside from German menu staples of bratwurst, schnitzel and sauerkraut, there will also be pre-packaged food for sale. Many of these items are imported from Germany, including collectable beer steins, "smokers" (wooden incense holders that, when lit, look as though the figure is blowing smoke) and other household items. All proceeds from the event go to GAST in order to help fund the organization's cultural and musical youth programs and activities.
As always, there will be plenty of activities for the kids. "Germanfest is very family-oriented," said Adrian. "It's a very easy going festival."
"The whole family can get together, enjoy music, dancing, some of the ethnic traditions," said Giles.
Adrian said that first time attendees can expect, first and foremost, a really good meal and a variety of music.
"The music is an unexpected bonus for most people," Adrian said. "People come for the food but stay for the music."
Traditional German song and dance is always a primary focus of the festival.
"We love to sing, love to dance," said Giles. According to her, all the "usuals" will be there this year including the GAST Choir, Folk Dancers, Kinder Folk Dancers, Blaskapelle and Polka bands, but festival goers can expect some new additions to the music lineup.
"The thing that thrills me the most is that we're going to have a group from Germany out this year," Giles said. The Reuter Duo features Heini Fichtweiler on accordion and keyboard and Walter Veicht on guitar playing music ranging from folk to pop. This will be the group's first stop at Tulsa's Germanfest. "The duo does just a fantastic job with the feel-good type of German music," Giles said. "They're able to play it from every which angle, not just the typical 'oom pah pah'; it's extremely upbeat."
Germanfest takes place at the GAST building (located one block west of Lewis Ave. on 15th Street). Tables will be set up banquet-style in the building as well as outdoors so attendants are covered regardless of weather.
Germanfest is May 1-2 from 10am-9pm and wraps up May 3 from 12-5pm. Visit www.gastulsa.org for more information.
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