6th annual Oktoberfest returns to Bennington on Saturday

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BENNINGTON >> The food, music and spirit of Germany will return to town again this weekend.

NorShaft Lions will host its 6th annual Oktoberfest at Colgate Park on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 and free for children under 12. The event is rain or shine.

The local take on the quintessential Bavarian celebration has gotten bigger each year since the local Lions Club chapter first held the event in 2011, according to Bert Savoia, event chairman.

"We're excited that it continues to grow," Savoia said. "Last year we had nearly 3,000 people, and we hope we can grow that significantly."

Volunteers will serve authentic German cuisine, he said. A beer tent with multiple taps and live entertainment with an Oktoberfest flare will also return.

New this year will be a clogging team, which will perform twice in between the Rymanowski Bros. Orchestra, a polka band that's a favorite of attendees.

The roots of Oktoberfest, a Bavarian tradition, date back 200 years: Bavarian Crown Prince Louis, later King Louis I of Bavaria, married Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen on Oct. 12, 1810, according to numerous historical sources. Citizens gathered on fields in front of the city gates for the royal event, which included live entertainment, horse racing, and, of course, beer. It was decided to repeat the whole spectacle the next year, and over time, it grew into a public festival.

Today, cities across the world hold their own Oktoberfests. The largest is held each year in Munich. In that city, the 186th Oktoberfest celebration kicked off on Sept. 17 with the ceremonial tapping of the first barrel of beer by the city's mayor. Some 5.5 million people from around the world came to this year's event, which ran until Oct. 3.

It takes a whole host of dedicated volunteers to put on the local Oktoberfest. Savoia said they help set up, will be serving up food and beverages on Saturday, and have other duties.

Attendees will be able to taste authentic German food including ratwurst, knockwurst, pierogies and more. Seasonal beers will be available on tap, and other libations will be available.

The Rymanowski Bros., described as the longest running polka band in New York's Capital Region, will play selections of traditional polka songs. One new entertainer will play a German "squeeze-box," Savoia said.

Events for children will include face painting, pumpkin painting and wagon rides, Savoia said.

And at least 40 craft vendors will attend.

The annual Oktoberfest is the NorShaft Lion's biggest fundraiser of the year, Savoia said. The local organization within Lions District 45 is part of the Lions Club International, a community service organization with 45,000 clubs and 1.3 million members worldwide.

Savoia said the money raised from Oktoberfest will go support local programs that include free vision and hearing screening; the purchase of eyeglasses and hearing aids for people in need; and supporting local food pantries.

"Every dollar we collect goes directly back to the community," he said.

For more information, visit the NorShaft Lions Club on Facebook or its website at www.d45lions.com.

Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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