In the United States, we know it's time for Oktoberfest when all those seasonal beers start hitting the shelves in late August and early September. Next, come the month of October, cities nationwide begin their regular Oktoberfest celebrations -- smallish events modeled after the original (and much larger) European festival that takes place in Munich, Germany each year.
But the real German Oktoberfest -- what is considered the world's largest annual festival since its inception in 1810 -- actually begins in September. Already this year, across the state of Bavaria and beyond, Germans have been swilling beer and scarfing down large amounts of pretzel and sausage as part of the 17-day festival, which runs from mid-September to the first weekend in October. During that time, more than 16 million people from around the world travel to attend the event.
This weekend, South Floridians can celebrate their own little slice of German Oktoberfest at the German American Society of Hollywood, which begins its annual Oktoberfest celebration on Saturday, September 27.
Modeled after the original, the Hollywood Oktoberfest is a traditional celebration that takes place at the German American Society grounds in its historic Bavarian clubhouse. The annual festival will run over the course of three Saturday celebrations beginning this weekend, and continuing October 11 and 25. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and music plays until 11 p.m.
During Oktoberfest, visitors can get a glimpse of authentic German culture with traditional dances, music, and a variety of authentic German food including weisswurst (veal sausage), würstl (sausage), sauerkraut, pretzels, and reiberdatschi (potato pancakes).
"During this event, we find a lot of people that just wander in, and maybe didn't even know our Oktoberfest was happening," said German American Society president Jeff Awve. "They're attracted to the culture, or they are German, and there's something about [Germans]. They are a people that like to celebrate their common heritage."
While there are dozens of bars, restaurants, and city celebrations happening around Broward and Palm Beach County in the name of Oktoberfest, the German American Society -- and its sister organization the American German Club of the Palm Beaches in Lantana, Florida -- offer the most authentic Oktoberfest celebration in the area.
Both clubs have been serving the South Florida communities as social and cultural centers for more than 40 years. The Hollywood club was founded in 1964 by Holger Obermann, an American-German who wanted to preserve the traditions, culture, and heritage of his native Germany. Since that time, both clubs have attracted hundreds of dedicated members who continue to carry out the founding members' original vision.
While Lantana's American German Club will be celebrating its 41st Oktoberfest next month -- what is considered to be the second largest Oktoberfest celebration in the country outside of Cincinnati, Ohio -- the Hollywood organization will be ringing in its 50th anniversary this year. During the Hollywood Oktoberfest, each of the club's 150 members (some of them also the club's founding members) will be working hard to ensure the celebration is as authentic as possible.
And that means beer. Dozens of kegs of the official Oktoberfest Hofbräu-Festzelt brew, made by the Hofbräuhaus brewery in Munich, will be pouring freely over the course of the three Saturday celebrations. In addition, much of the food is prepared by the club members hand, using traditional German recipes.
Oktoberfest will begin this Saturday, September 27 from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., rain or shine, at The German American Society is located at 6401 Washington Street in Hollywood. There is a $7 entry fee. The event is free to children age 12 and under.
The German American Society of Hollywood will also be celebrating its 50th anniversary with a special ticketed event on November 8th. For information about membership, or to learn more about the club, visit germanamericanclubhollywood.org, or call 954-322-6227.
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.