132nd Oktoberfest: German-American Society annual event


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Brenna Paulson

Under the light of a full moon, people in lederhosen and flower crowns drank and danced the night away at the German-American Society’s 132nd Oktoberfest and German Day celebration. The atmosphere was lively at the event held Sept 16 and 17 at the German-American Hall in southwest Omaha.

All day Saturday, cold German beer flowed from the “beir anhänger” (beer trailer), and families enjoyed German torte and sausage.

Although many of the organization’s events are member-exclusive, Oktoberfest was opened to the public around 1989, said Michael Olk, Event Chairman for Oktoberfest and Vice President of the German-American Society.

“It started as a dinner-dance for members,” Olk said. He explained that the organization noticed the growing popularity of other Oktoberfest celebrations around Omaha and decided to open their doors. He said it has grown by leaps and bounds.

Members and nonmembers alike have since been able to enjoy beer, bratwursts and polka music. It seemed that the public’s interest in the event grew in the last year.

“We don’t have the final numbers yet, but going by food sales there was a bigger crowd by far,” Olk said.

The event was not just about drinking. The German-American Society’s Oktoberfest is also their celebration of German-American Day, a holiday to honor German culture in the United States.

“Oktoberfest is very significant to our members and our culture,” Olk said. “It’s a tradition that started back in Bavaria.”

This Oktoberfest had activities for all-ages including carnival games, folk dancing and a German souvenir consignment sale. Featured polka bands included Alpensterne, Barry Boyce, Polka Police, Festhaus-Musikanten, Bobby Z Polka Joy and Rip Tide Refugees.

Beside the German-American Hall, a small building housed the German-American Society’s museum. Festival-goers could step away from the noise and excitement for a moment to view photographs, sheet music,wood-carved figurines and a Prussian military uniform. All are artifacts that chronicle the organization’s long history in Omaha.

“Oktoberfest is an opportunity for people to see what we’re all about,” Olk said.

It is clear that the German-American Society has a lot to offer with 18 sub-organizations and activities like beer brewing, puppet performances and German language classes.

The German-American Society offers memberships to anyone interested. They encourage students to join with a discounted membership. Those interested in learning more about the organization or upcoming events can visit their website, germanamericansociety.org.