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Annual ode to German culture — Oktoberfest — starts Friday

By Staff | Oct 18, 2018


A German word that conveys the feeling warmth, friendliness and good cheer.

There will be an abundance of Gemutlichkeit in the upcoming weekends, as The German-American Social Club of Cape Coral is putting on the 33rd annual Oktoberfest, a celebration of German culture spanning over two weekends, providing guests with an authentic German experience here in Southwest Florida.

“I love the food, the music, the Gemutlichkeit, the atmosphere,” said Oktoberfest Chair Juergen Wolfgang Schmidt. “We have up to 30,000 people here on a weekend, but we never have any issues. It’s a family atmosphere.”

Oktoberfest takes place the weekends of Oct. 19-21 and 26-28- from 4 p.m.-midnight on Fridays, noon-midnight Saturdays and noon to 8 p.m. Sundays, though there will be an after-party Sunday nights inside of the club until 11.

The club has flown in a 33-member Knappenkapelle band direct from Bavaria to accompany many local musicians as well.

Authentic German food and beer, including their famous potato pancakes, bring tens of thousands of residents from across the region to get a taste, literally, of what the German culture is all about.

“Come here and try the amazing authentic German food, try some of our beers, we even have non-alcoholic beer as well. Come be part of it and part of the biggest party in Florida,” said Schmidt.

This is his first year as chairman of the event, but has been a part of The German-American Social Club of Cape Coral for over 20 years.

His goal is to prepare the event for decades to come, while still keeping the traditional German customs that makes the event so unique.

“Here, you really can gel together old and young. You can gel people together with 60 years in-between them,” Schmidt said. “What my challenge was, was to implement adjustments into the future. We are in 2018. We are in the internet generation. We’re prepared to have a younger crowd here, to be part of the tradition our founding fathers instilled.”

German favorites such as bratwurst, knackwurst, currywurst, schweinshaxe, schnitzel and sauerbraten will be served, as well as seven different varieties of beer that are actually imported from Germany.

“We’ve been preparing since Monday, and even months before that,” said Kortney Tolan with The Doener German Street Food, who is supplying brats, schnitzel and pretzels for Oktoberfest. “It’s a lot of preparing, we’re working 10 hours days on end just to get ready for this weekend.”

Knappenkapelle Kropfmuehl came all the way from Bavaria to be a part of the event, and is their first time performing for Southwest Florida residents.

“We play Bavarian folkloraian music, as well as some party music to dance and sing along with,” said band member and tour manager, Stefan Endl. ” We got a very nice welcome. It should be fantastic as far as we have seen. There’s everything that makes Oktoberfest, a real Oktoberfest.”

One of the richest traditions of the celebration is the introduction of Ms. Oktoberfest.

Cheyenne Schwind is this year’s selection and she will be involved in everything Oktoberfest over the two weeks, learning traditional dances, being the face of the festival and learning a bit of German.

“I’m so excited for these coming weekends for dancing and celebrating,” she said. “It is a little bit nerve-wracking because it’s out of my comfort zone, but it’s something that I’ve wanted to do for many years. I’m excited to finally take the step to do it.”

She has been attending Oktoberfest with her Oma and Opa for many years and has fond memories of each event, especially the dancing and authentic German beer.

“It’s such a good time, and the closest you’ll get to Munich; it’s our version of Munich here and it is the best and biggest party in Southwest Florida, and as far as I’m concerned, all of Florida,” Schwind said. “It doesn’t get more authentic then this.”

Trebing Tile & Carpet of Cape Coral, which has been involved with Oktoberfest for 29 years helping set up the tents and sponsoring shirts, this year generously gave The German-American Social Club a cash donation.

“My mom was pregnant with me the first time I technically came here. So I’ve literally been here every single year, every weekend. And every year is good,” said Julia Trebing Miller. “Having a beer with family, seeing people that you only see once a year-(I’m) third generation-my grandparents are members and have been a big part of it, my parents have been a part of it since they moved here from Germany 29 years ago.”

Her favorite part is the choo-choo train they have as part of their amusements, and is something she hopes to pass on to her two young children.

Other activities include carnival rides and games, arts and crafts, prize drawings and a 2-acre Bavarian Biergarten.

Chris Kaelin, a society member and North Fort Myers resident, is heavily involved with Oktoberfest and has been attending since the ’80s.

“We have a lot of great volunteers,” he said. “I love the heritage. I love the culture. There’s so much that I’ve learned about where my family came from since joining this club.”

An abundance of different musical acts will take to two different stages, playing a mix of traditional, folk and pop German music.

The Europa Band, Die Lustigen Almdudler, Manni Daum Trio, Peter Dee, Possum Gravy and Hot Buttered Nuggets will all perform.

A special talent out of Cape Coral, an eighth grader at North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts and Cape resident, Jaid Johnson, will sing the national anthem on Friday and Sunday both weekends.

She is currently in talks with record labels in Nashville to pursue her country/southern rock musical career.

“I’m very excited. I’m excited to see the culture and have the experience because I think it’s going to be a lot of fun with a lot of people,” she said.

Advance tickets to the event are $5 and can be purchased at The German-American Social Club, Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce, Trebing Tile and the Doener German Street Food.

You may also purchase tickets at the gate for $6.

Children 12 and under are admitted free.

There is plenty of free parking and all event dates are rain-or-shine.

Police, fire, EMS and active military with valid ID or badge will have complimentary admission for themselves and one guest.

Schmidt has deep roots in the public service realm, as he was part of the Cape Coral Fire Department when he first moved to Cape Coral in ’93.

The club is also conducting a disaster aid drive for victims of Hurricane Michael.

Free admission is available to those on the two Sunday dates, between noon and 3 p.m. to each person who brings in three or more non-perishable or disaster relief items.

Donations also can also be dropped off at the club daily between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

“You don’t have to be German to come here, everybody’s welcome,” Schmidt said. “Everybody who wants to be out in the air partying and having a good time with their families, please come see us.”

The German-American Social Club is at 2101 SW Pine Island Road in Cape Coral.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj