TERRE HAUTE —
People in lederhosen bobbed about the marketplace to the tune of German folk songs, as an annual tradition kicked off downtown.
The 40th Annual Oktoberfest got under way Thursday afternoon inside the Clabber Girl Festival Marketplace at Ninth and Cherry streets. Members of the Terre Haute German Oberlandler Club dished up hot potato salad, sauerkraut and sausages as a crowd began to gather.
Ray Weber, president of the club, said this weekend’s festival helps raise money for the organization’s charitable events. Combined with the Strassenfest in April, the two events go a long way in helping the community.
“These are our two big fundraisers that we do to support everything throughout the year,” he said.
The Oberlandler Club sponsors scholarships at both Indiana State University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, and projects at the Light House Mission, Catholic Charities of Terre Haute and Exchange Club.
This year’s Oktoberfest is open at the festival marketplace from 11 a.m. through midnight today, and 4 p.m. through midnight Saturday.
Weber, who serves as manager of the Walmart in Paris, Ill., said he schedules his vacations each year to coincide with the festivals.
James Hale, who has been volunteering about 18 years, handled the dessert table with his wife, Erika. Chocolate cakes were piled next to strudel.
“My wife got me into it,” he said, explaining she was born in Germany.
Erika said she met her first husband while he was stationed there in the service. And along with her heritage, she brought her culinary skills to her new country.
“We baked the apple strudel, and I like the potato salad very much,” she said.
Wearing a green hat with pins from his travels abroad, Bill Bryant worked the beer garden, where Budweiser products and Spaten Oktoberfest bubbled from spouts, right next to nonalcoholic options. A member of the club nearly 11 years, he said one of its founders got him interested while describing their group travels.
“They were taking a trip to Germany, so I joined the club to go on the trip,” he said, adding he enjoys the people and community work in addition to the food.
Later that afternoon, the dinner crowd was forming. Clay County resident Ron Stacy was attending the event for the first time.
“It’s pretty awesome,” he said toward the rear of the tent as the band continued to play. The food, he added, is his favorite part. “I think they ought to do it more often ... two or three times a year,” he laughed.
For many, the event is an annual destination. Clinton native Jeff Thomas said he now lives in Terre Haute, but the festival seems to draw people from all over.
“I’m seeing old friends I haven’t seen in a long time,” he said.
And in addition to food and music, Germany’s legacy in the production of beverages is also appreciated over the course of the weekend.
Tom Shoemaker was enjoying his fill inside the beer garden while the band continued to play.
“The beer is good,” he said.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.