I attended my first ever German Oktoberfest this weekend in Cincinnati, OH. The festival sponsored by the Germania Society was a celebration of beer, brats, metts, lederhosen and polka music. The Germania Society promotes the event as the most original and authentic German celebration in Cincinnati.
I attended the event with Gritty who boasted his German heritage and how great the polka music was going to be for him and the beer selection would be at its finest for this kraut laden event. Did I mention that I am not even the slightest of German? I was apprehensive, intimidated to a point. Would they be checking papers at the entry gate? Would they let this Irish/Spaniard through the gates to drink from their beer spewing fountains?
As most Cincinnati festivals have adopted, we took the shuttle over from the local middle school. The bus was filled to capacity and I mean capacity. Gritty and I were standing in the front of the bus. No, not in the aisle but in the front, with the driver, in front of the door awaiting to be ejected out the side of the swinging door and onto the hot, black, August pavement. The driver was very jolly. She was a young, African American woman who asked me several times on our journey if I was okay and holding on tight enough. She was charming and in her own way eased my mind slightly on the upcoming festivities.
Dropped off at the door and ready to drink, we walked to the entrance of the festival hand-in-hand. The ambassadors at the gates took our six bucks and told us to have a great time. Whew. I was in.
Gritty knew right where he wanted to go first: The Beer Garden, I mean, The Bier Garten? We walked up to the beer tent and I anticipated seeing row after row of the best German beers available and beers that were in adherence to the Reinheitsgebot order; Hefeweisbier, Spaten, or Einbecker. No, remember, this is Cincinnati. No, the German beer on tap was Warsteiner. Yes, still a German brewed beer and Warsteiner is Germany’s largest privately owned brewery but I can get one of those at the Lucky Duck Pub in Northern Kentucky. Let’s not forget to give an honorable mention to the bottles of Budweiser and Miller Lite that were being slung out by the hundreds to this very thirsty crowd. Were they too expecting a more elite selection of beers and thought it best to throw back a 4 dollar domestic than pay the 7 bucks for a Warsteiner? Nah, you can’t get the 12 dollar souvenir mug and not drink the featured beer on tap, can you?
One of two things that did not disappoint this Irish belle was the food. Now when it comes to festival food, all rules are off. You are not eating healthy, you are not eating vegan or vegetarian and any laws that follow health department code are non-existent. I ordered a mettworst and potato pancakes and Gritty ordered a hot mett. Both of our sausages came perfectly encased in a steamed roll and topped with the most delicious sauerkraut I have ever eaten. The small round potato pancakes were a hit and even more enjoyable as Gritty loaded them with horseradish. I really must stock my fridge with this newly discovered condiment. Not just for bloody mary’s any longer. I will be putting that shit on everything!
We made our way inside in search of the Polka Woodstock that Gritty had so kindly chattered about between bites of sausage. The room had promise. The tables were packed with sausage devouring patrons drinking from their 64 ounce souvenir mugs. The building alone was magical. It was adorned with wood paneling around every wall and a faux stucco-like finish covered the top portion of the beer splattered walls. Wrought iron (real?) chandeliers hung every foot or so from the foam tiled ceiling. With a grin, Gritty looked at me and asked if we ever get married, could we have the reception there? I was too entranced by the actual thought of one day marrying Gritty to come back with any sassy and/or sarcastic remark.
Seated at the front of the room appeared to be Kenny Rogers. Of course it wasn’t but he sure looked like Kenny! German Kenny was playing his accordion, wearing a Hawaiian style shirt, cargo shorts and brown sandals. He was playing The Gambler. No fucking joke, I was witnessing an accordion playing, country music singing German catastrophe! I glanced at Gritty to see his expression. Gritty doesn’t have a very good poker face and the writing, er music was on the wall. We, (I) suffered through several more songs even after a lederhosen clad senior walked up to the stage and started fiddling with a base guitar. When German Kenny started belting out Jimmy Buffet, we couldn’t run fast enough to the Exit sign.
Out and about around the festival grounds we strolled, my Gritty and me. The second thing that did not disappoint was, the crowd. A mix of Cincinnati drunken west siders and drunken east siders who looked like and probably felt like they were on safari at the west side event. (Thanks Gritty for that insight.) One thing was clear, all were German today!
We walked over to a picnic area where outside party lights were draped from every tree and tent standing. Another musical majesty awaited us. We perched on a small bench that was actually a tree stump and tuned in to the key board playing, tall and blond entertainer, straight from Vegas! Not only was it bad, it was downright hysterical. The twinkling party lights reflected off his black leather pants perfectly as he belted his best version of Lionel Richie’s, I just Called to Say I Love You. I glanced at Gritty and got just what I expected, his look of disbelief. How is there no fucking polka? Our attention then shifted to the other festival goers seated at the rows of picnic tables. We played name their hometown, name their high school and so on. It was fun. It was mean fun, but hey, coming from Gritty and sassy Esme, we tend to play a little mean.
We made our way back out to the crowds and went for second supper. Gritty got a coke and a Limburger sandwich and I opted for the Curry Mett and giant pickle. The limburger sandwich took my breath away. Not because it was awesome but because it was so strong. Served on rye bread with rings of sliced onion it was hard not to gasp for air after my first bite. I decided another bite would be wise since Gritty was eating it and I would hopefully be kissing him later that evening. The pickle and curry dog did not disappoint. I easily could have eaten another pickle and then another slathered in horseradish all while dipping it in my Warsteiner.
We made our way back to our future reception site to give the polka music one last chance. Jack Pot! He was there, the long awaited authentic, polka playing King! Gritty smiled a huge, limburger smelling smile!
We watched as old couples danced across the floor and gazed into each other’s eyes while they listened to the polka play on. Patrons lined up to have their mugs and steins refilled and others graced the dessert lines for their favorite fudge, strudel and puffs.
As we left the festival and boarded the yellow bus to the middle school lot, I glanced back to watch the crowds as they filtered in and out of the gates. The crowds of people were exactly what Cincinnati is and will always be, folks just looking for a good time for themselves, their friends and their families. Like the editing of this post, they are not perfect, nor do they want to be. Tonight I was German and I enjoyed every minute of it. Prost!