Hagerstown celebrates German heritage with Augustoberfest
HAGERSTOWN, MD. >> The logo for the 20th annual Augustoberfest, celebrated in Hagerstown, showcases some iconic German images such as pretzels, frothy beer steins and alphorns — along with a photo of "Auggie" and his family arriving for the fun by plane, a reference to Hagerstown as an aviation hub.
All of these elements come together Aug. 22 and 23 in a festival that recalls the city's German heritage. So popular has the festival become that it has doubled in size over the past two years and is expected to grow even larger this year.
This two-day family affair features everything from great food to a Kinderwunderland for the wee ones. And the live music includes those alphorns — which reach to the ground.
Two non-competitive walks kick off the festivities, meant, no doubt, to stimulate the appetite for a menu chock-full of German specialities.
For the second year Healthy Eating and Active Lifestyles of Washington County will sponsor a 10K fit walk through the streets of downtown Hagerstown and its classically laid-out City Park. For those who wish a more relaxed pace, there is an alternative 5K walk. Entrants may sign up at the HEAL table in the Augustoberfest tent between 9 a.m. and noon Aug. 22.
Following the bracing walk comes a day packed with activities, many for the young, that will keep everyone delighted. Although the gates to the Central Lot, 14 N. Potomac St., open at 10:30 a.m., it will be a half-hour before those barrels with their tempting contents are rolled out. Mayor Dave Gysbert, along with other officials, will do the honors of keg tapping. Then visitors can enjoy a drink and a snack while exploring the items displayed by various vendors.
Sunday will include a German car show from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., featuring coveted automobiles from the PCA Potomac Porsche Club, BMW Club and Mercedes Club. That same morning the annual Fruhschoppen buffet-style brunch will draw an enthusiastic crowd.
Children's activities will abound, and one of the most prominent is Horn's Punch and Judy show, the oldest in the U.S., with multiple performances both days. This classic is always an enjoyable one, even for adults. There will also be arts and crafts, face painting, and a story teller recounting German folk tales.
Featured music groups will be Die Schlauberger, Heidi and Heimat Echo Band (those alphorns!) and Alt Washingtonia Schuhplattler Verein.
Get ready for a full menu of German-style food — the Fruhschoppen — from a pork roast dinner to bratwurst, sauerkraut, pretzels, and spaetzle noodles. And don't miss the kinklings — a raised fried doughnut we call fastnachts in Pennsylvania — usually served on Shrove Tuesday before the beginning of Lent. They can be served with butter, maple syrup, honey or powdered sugar.
Augustoberfest came about as a way to recognize the city's relationship with its sister city, Wesel, in Germany. The two became officially linked in 1952. The connection came about through the efforts of Dr. Karl Heinz Reuber, who sought an American town interested in establishing joint projects and was furthered with the visit of Dr. von Bonninghausen, a German county manager. The then mayor of Hagerstown jumped on an opportunity that has led to many exchanges and visits between the two cities, as well as a marriage between former Mayor Burhan's daughter, Sally, and Karl Heinz Buschmann.
Nowadays, the nonprofit Augustoberfest Charitable Foundation keeps up this unique cooperation, raising funds for scholarships for American students to get to know their European sister city.
WHEN YOU GO:
WHERE: Central Lot at 14 N. Potomac St. Hagerstown, Md.
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 22; 11-5 Aug. 23 (rain or shine)
COST: $5 a day, children younger than 12 enter free with a paying adult
TICKETS: Fruhschoppen tickets sold separately, availability limited
DETAILS: call 301-739-8577, Ext. 819, or visit augustoberfest.org.