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Here’s to tradition: Cape Coral’s Oktoberfest enters its 28th year

By Staff | Oct 17, 2013

It is that time of year again to break out the lederhosen, steins and famous “Chicken Dance” skills as the 28th annual Oktoberfest kicks off today in Cape Coral at the German American Social Club.

The festival, which runs through the weekend and then again Oct. 25-27, will feature a packed lineup of live music and entertainment, including the headliner band Zimmere Kapelle, of Germany. The other big acts include Barefoot Becky & the Ivanhoe Dutchmen, the Manni Daum Duo, and Peter & Edith.

The band Hafenkapelle, sponsored by the German American Social Club, will also perform.

Zimmere Kapelle played the festival a few years ago, according to event chairman Steve Amann.

“They’ve been here a couple of times before,” he said. “We have like five bands in Germany that we bring over, and rotate them.”

It has also been a few years since Barefoot Becky & the Ivanhoe Dutchmen performed.

“She was here several years ago,” Amann said, adding that the band plays a polka style of music.

“It’s been awhile since she’s been back,” he said.

Additional entertainment will include Irish dancers, Ukrainian dancers and the Lee County Pipes & Drums. There will be German shepherd demonstrations at about 5 p.m. both Saturdays, and some of the cast from the Broadway Palm show “Cats” will do a couple of numbers at about 4 p.m. on Sundays.

“We have the pipers. We have dancers coming in and everything else,” Amann said.

The festival runs today from 4 p.m. to midnight. The opening ceremony will be held at 8 p.m.

“That’s when we officially tap the keg,” he said.

Mayor John Sullivan is expected to tap the keg as the burgermeister, or “town master.”

The event is held from noon to midnight on Saturdays and noon to 9 p.m. on Sundays. On Oct. 25 – the second Friday on the schedule – the festival will again run from 4 p.m. to midnight.

Amann noted that a free non-denominational service is held Sundays at 11 a.m. It is open to the public.

Another highlight on Sundays is the grand parade, which will take place from 1-1:15 p.m.

Along with the array of entertainment comes traditional German fare and drinks.

“Of course, we have our foods and – the bottom line is – we have beer,” Amann said.

Krombacher, Beck’s and Beck’s Oktoberfest will be available, as well as speciality beers like Shock Top and LandShark and mainstream selections to include Budweiser and Bud Light.

“They’re bringing a different variety of beer,” he said of the vendors.

According to Amann, organizers make a mountain out of the empty kegs behind the tent or main stage. In what has become tradition, many attendees use the steel hill as a prop in their photo opportunity.

“We go through anywheres from 700 to 800 kegs,” he said.

As for food, potato pancakes are the big seller.

“Best potato pancakes in the state of Florida and probably the U.S., according to our people that eat them,” Amann said.

The club sold almost 44,000 pancakes total last year.

“They’re all made from fresh ingredients,” he said. “No packaging.”

There will be bratwursts, knackwursts and hot dogs, along with schweinhaxen, which is roasted ham hock or pork knuckle, and leberkaese – a German-style meatloaf. Schnitzel and sauerbraten will be for sale in the von Steuben Hall for those who want a sit-down dinner. Food prices range from $4 to $10.

“We do have a couple of vendors,” Amann said.

There is chicken, pizza and burgers, along with roasted nuts, chocolate-dipped fruit and funnel cake.

For the younger attendees, there will be a children’s carnival with rides.

“We try to make this a family event,” he said.

Last year, approximately 34,700 people turned out over the two weekends.

Amann noted that it rained one day, and that the event typically draws 34,000 to 40,000 total.

“Right now the weather looks in our favor,” he said Thursday.

Throughout the festival, the German American Social Club will raffle off prizes.

“The admission ticket is for the prizes,” Amann said. “We don’t sell the raffle tickets.”

There are four JetBlue airline tickets that will be given away – two on each Saturday – along with spring training tickets for the Red Sox at JetBlue Park and tickets on the Key West Express.

On Oct. 27, the grand prize of a trip for two to Germany will be raffled off.

“It’s so much fun,” he said of the festival. “You can never get enough of Oktoberfest.”

Tickets are $6 at the door or $5 in advance. Advance tickets are available at the German American Social Club, the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral and all Hess Express Stations in Lee County.

In conjunction with the festivities, Lee County Electric Cooperative will hold its second annual Oktoberfest 5K Run/Walk on Oct. 26 at Jim Jeffers Park. The proceeds benefit the United Way.

“We’re always looking for ways to raise money for United Way,” spokeswoman Karen Ryan said. “October is just a great time of the year, and the Oktoberfest group has been fantastic partnering with us – it just was a win-win for both of us.”

Registration opens at 6:30 a.m. and the race starts at 7:30 a.m. A Tot Trot will follow the 5K.

“It’s a fun race for racers of all caliber,” she said. “It’s just a really fun family race atmosphere.”

The route takes participants through the neighborhood located around the park.

“It doesn’t go out on Pine Island Road or anything like that. It’s all in a safe environment,” Ryan said.

After the race, trophies and medals will be handed out during a ceremony. The top three winners receive trophies, and the medals will go to the top performers in different skill levels and age groups.

“They’re Oktoberfest-themed trophies, so that makes it fun,” she said.

Last year, the 5K raised more than $6,000 for the United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades Counties.

“We didn’t expect to raise that much last year, so we were thrilled with that,” Ryan said.

While organizers would like to raise more this year, their goal is to get more people involved.

“We would like to increase the participation by about 350 runners,” she said.

Advance registration is $25 for ages 18 and older and $20 for ages 17 and younger. To register the day of the race, the cost is $30 for both groups. Registration for the Tot Trot is $10 for ages 12 and under.

To register in advance, visit the Web site: endurancesportstiming.com.

Ryan noted that race participants receive free tickets to Oktoberfest, even free beverage tickets.

“Plan to make a day of it,” she said. “Come out in the morning and enjoy the race, then go to Oktoberfest and grab some lunch and take in the festivities there.”

For more information about the second annual Oktoberfest 5K Run/Walk, contact (239) 656-2342 or Oktoberfest5K@lcec.net or visit the Web site online at: www.uw.lcec.net/5k.html.

Jim Jeffers Park is at 2817 S.W. Third Lane.

For information about the 28th annual Oktoberfest, visit: www.CapeCoralOktoberfest.com.

The German American Social Club is at 2101 S.W. Pine Island Road.