Norshaft Lions Club celebrates Oktoberfest with traditional flair
BENNINGTON - Beer, bratwurst, dancing and wagon rides were only outshone by the beautiful weather in Colgate Park on Saturday.
Oktoberfest was held for the first time at the 1768 Hubbel Homestead, after the first two previous years when celebrations took place at the McCullough House, a change necessary to accomodate the growing number of people.
Organized by the Norshaft Lions Club to benefit numerous local charities, last year brought in 2,000 people.
This year members say they met their goal by doubling that number.
"Every penny they raise they pass along," said Joann Erenhouse, volunteer and executive director of the Bennington Chamber of Commerce.
"It goes to youth scholarships and to help the blind and so many other local charities. They make a real impact here in our community."
The "brainchild" of Laura Meehan, according to Erenhouse, the event had families, couples and countless children enjoying the sunshine and music.
"For a fall day in Vermont this is it," said Meehan, chairperson of the event and a director on the board of governors for the Lions club.
"It's just been a fantastic, fantastic day. People want to be out, enjoying the view, dancing and having a beer."
The use of Colgate Park was donated by owners Jamie and Vicki Jerome.
Norshaft Lions cooked and served all the food sold, as well as prep-work and cleaning.
A steady line to the beer tent formed as Kevin's Sports Pub and Restaurant poured fall brews.
"It's been a really good mix of our locals and our tourists of all ages," said Meehan. "We've got couples in their 80s in there doing the polka."
The Rymanowski Bothers Orchestra Band, a third-generation family orchestra started in 1947, traveled from the Albany area to play for the crowds on Saturday. Dennis, Gerry and Jerry Rymanowski were joined by Joe Ryczek and Bob Drozd.
"The music is very good," said Charlie Soukup, of Richmond, Va., who was enjoying the day with his wife Carole.
"We sort of stumbled into this while visiting our son," said Soukup, of their week-long visit with their son and family in the Albany area. "In Virginia we rarely get the polka-style of music, they're very talented."
The whole event had an idyllic autumn feel, with the leaves matching the amber color of the specialty drafts.
"Of course I had a drink, you don't go to Oktoberfest without trying the beers," laughed Soukup.
Folks were also lining up to try the hickory syrup from Hoosick Falls Hickory, made by Fran and Kim Knapp.
Although hickory trees don't provide a sap, the Knapps have found a way to render the bark shed by the trees into an extract, adding sugar to make a breakfast-style syrup as well as sea salts and other goods.
"We've had a great day here," said Fran. "We were so busy our beers went flat."
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