Orleans Oktoberfest O’zapft-is!
By LISA MOREHEAD-NEUNER, TRT Contributing Writer
The theme for the non-profit Panamnik Building Project’s Third Thursday Dinner (Oct. 18) was dedicated to an over two-hundred year old Bavarian tradition – the world-famous Oktoberfest. And while Orleans neither sets aside a full two weeks for the celebration as they do in Germany, nor opens the event with the traditional words, “O’zapft –is!” (It’s tapped!), Orleans takes great pride in doing theirs in style.
“Panamnik’s Oktoberfest stays true to the German culture,” notes Rebecca Lawrence, a Mid-Klamath Watershed Council’s (MKWC) employee. “This dinner is not just a fundraiser, this is a community event. Orleans Elementary teacher Shelly Slusser has her 3-6 graders come and dance to folk music, there’s a cross-cut saw contest – it’s a lot of fun.”
Historically, the first Oktoberfest was held in Munich in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. All the citizens of Munich were invited to the pre-nuptial festivities held on the meadows just outside the city’s gates. In commemoration of the joyful event, Oktoberfest has taken place almost every year since.
In Orleans, the celebration takes place annually. Since 2008, it has changed from its original dance and music-only program featured in the elementary school cafeteria and has now added the dinner to the agenda and moved into the Panamnik building, the up-keep of which is currently the object of this fund raising event.
As in years past, traditional fare was prepared by a number of local supporters of the MKWK cause, to restore the threatened Klamath River and the upslope habitats. A $12 adult entrance fee paid for copious amounts of homemade Bretzeln (Pretzels), Bratwurst, Kartoffelsalat (German potato salad), two different kinds of Senf (German mustard), desserts and a whole lot more. Naturally enough, local wines were available for purchase, as well as “tapped” beer. Eins, zwei, drei – gesoffa! (one, two, three – swig it!)
“No one came here to get drunk,” explained Chelsea Preston, a young Karuk woman, motioning around the well-packed room. She stopped to laugh as a group of children dressed in dirndls and lederhosen swarmed past her. “I like to come here because MKWK hosts events that are more positive.”
And if “positive” is defined as an evening spent dining with community members, eating delicious home-cooked German food, listening to live folk music, competing in (or watching from the side-lines) arm-wrestling matches, positive it was.
Meredith Klein-Morehead, coordinator for the Panamnik Building Project’s fund-raising events, said, “You have to hand it to Tina Marier,” meaning long-time Orleans resident and music/ folk dance teacher extraordinaire. “She pulls all the stops when it comes to Oktoberfest.” Klein-Morehead added that many of the costumes and traditional music instruments were on loan from Marier personally.
“I love this event,” admitted Marier. “I’ve been doing it for I don’t know how many years. And when MKMK started doing the Third Thursday Dinner fund-raisers, it just seemed natural that they would host the Orleans Oktoberfest.”
Most of the diners and dancers had left the building, and a host of volunteers were stacking tables and chairs as Melinda Stearns confessed that it wasn’t the beer that brought her to Orleans from her Somes Bar residence. “I like the social aspect of the dinner. We don’t get a lot of that (in the area). I feel that it’s important for the community to get together.” Eins, zwei, drei – Prost! Cheers!