Saturday, Oct. 5 kicked off Oktoberfest, a month-long event that features German culture and history activities every weekend. The Deutsches Haus opened their festival to the many members of the New Orleans community to celebrate German heritage.“This is my son’s favorite festival; he even brings his own stein … Last Christmas, we even got him a lederhosen,” said Ashley Merritt, who attended the event with her family. “Every year, we come at least once, but more often than not, we are here every weekend it’s open.”
This event offered German foods such as bratwurst, sauerkraut, schnitzel, meatloaf, pork loin and many varieties of German cheeses and German desserts. They normally have more than 20 different kinds of German beers, nine different wines and more than 20 different schnapps to choose from.
“I’m here for the brats and beer!” said attendee Bubba Freeney, with two beer steins in his hands.
Oktoberfest has many special things planned for each weekend. In addition to the ongoing live Oom-pah music, there are dance performances and a daily beer stein holding contest. On Oct. 6, there are the two-mile run and the Schnauzer costume contest. There is a parade planned on Oct. 13 at 6 p.m., as well as a 3 p.m. dachshund race on Oct. 20. For children, the Deutsches Haus has an area featuring games like tic-tac-toe, a maze, cornhole and pipe ball.
The Deutsches Haus is a non-profit organization that relies on their volunteers each year to plan and host Oktoberfest and support the German community of New Orleans. Denise Barnette, one of the board members for the Deutsches Haus, explained how much work goes into planning this event.
“We started organizing this event almost immediately after we finished [the last],” Barnette said. “We have our volunteer party, as it is all volunteers that run this festival. All the food is cooked and even ordered by volunteers. Then we have a review meeting that looks at what worked and what didn’t work, and then we start planning!”
However, this year will be different for the Deutsches Haus workers, as they will be celebrating the grand opening of their new location. Like the homes of many members of the New Orleans community, the old home of the Deutsches Haus was flooded by Katrina. This year is marked by the opening of their new building.
“This year will be packed for Deutsches Haus”, Barnett said.
“So instead of us being done and being able to relax for at least a month, we will be working toward that grand opening!”
The new building will hold a lot of the events that had been hosted by their old location. These events, like Oktoberfest, highlight German heritage and its effects on the New Orleans area.
“This new Deutsches Haus will have monthly lectures on German history and Beethoven and brats, where we have people come in and play classical German music and eat!” Barnett explained.
One of the goals of Oktoberfest is to keep a family environment and maintain a friendly community.
“I think Oktoberfest really brings everyone together … The Deutsches Haus was founded on assisting German immigrants way back in the 1920s. They helped them get food, a job, shelter, or helped them get somewhere else. Like a community and like a family!” said Barnett. “So to be here now and see all these little kids and all these families come out and keep the original feelings alive, to have a festival, where you have alcohol, but the kids are welcomed too, and keeping that family environment is very important to us.”
Barnett often is the one who checks emails and phone calls of the organization and often tries her best to help families that want to come and enjoy Oktoberfest. This festival is for the community and many members of the organization work hard to make it that way.
Oktoberfest will continue each weekend in October, with their last day being Oct. 20. If you miss the festivities, the Deutsches Haus welcomes any guests to their new location on Bayou Saint John at 1700 Moss St. after the festival.
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