The German beer-drinking holiday comes to Austin.
Text and Photo by Leo B. Carter
Austin Saengerrunde and Scholz Garten beat everyone to the punch by ringing in the most favored of drunken holidays, Oktoberfest, on the last weekend of September. Scholz Garten is already a well-known institution, but for the nearly 125-year-old German Singing Society, this was somewhat of a coming-out celebration. The first Austoberfest was Austin Saengerrunde’s first public event of this scale, and people showed up in force, many adorning traditional German clothing. People dawned lederhosen and full-length woolen socks with gusto in spite of the heat, ready to celebrate the rich German heritage of Central Texas.
“We’ve had a lot of small Oktoberfests but nothing this big before,” Saengerrunde Treasurer Paul Mettke explains. “I think it was very successful for the first time.”
The mood was unmistakably jovial as people of all backgrounds and ages mingled and enjoyed some of the finest sausages from throughout Central Texas. For those of age, draughts of Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr were available in unlimited supply.
When asked what he would change for next year’s event, Mettke didn’t hesitate.
“I think we’d have more beer lines,” he says. “The one thing I’ve gotten complaints about is that it takes too long to get a beer.”
It was true. That seemingly inevitable symptom of the over-crowded festival, the never-ending line, was a kink that was still being worked out. It didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits though. Even when the clouds finally unleashed a torrent on attendees, people went right along enjoying themselves unfazed. It might have been the imperturbable contentedness brought on by endless turkey, beef and pork links and bottomless beer.
The local eateries that contributed delicious sausages to Austoberfest included Black’s, Southside Market, Louie Mueller, Opa, La Barbecue, Taylor Cafe, Micklethwait, Meyer’s and School House Pub.
Austin Saengerrunde even opened its vintage six-lane bowling alley to the public. This correspondent enjoyed six frames of less-than-flawless 10 pin and was easily bested by a bowler in knee-high, hand-knit socks and leather lederhosen. Throughout the game, a member of Saengerrunde’s league team carefully took score on an overhead transparency while explaining a little of the history of the place. The bowling alley is one of the oldest in Austin, originally built in 1904.
On an indoor and outdoor stage, bands played throughout the better part of the five-hour event. They included Austin’s own White Ghost Shivers, whose energetic 1920s era jazz and dynamic personalities played perfectly in to the lively atmosphere of the afternoon.
The events at Austin Saengerrunde are “geared towards furthering the German culture in word, song and dance,” Mettke says, and there’s no doubt that they succeeded with this one. For those who missed it but are interested in what the organization has coming up, there’s a Christmas dance on the first Saturday in December. Find out more at saengerrunde.org.
For more Oktoberfest events, visit atxman.com/oktoberfest-banger’s-style.