ROBERTS COVE — For 20 years now, the Roberts Cove Germanfest has been a family affair for Tommy Ohlenforst and his “tribe.”
“My family was born and raised right down the road,” Ohlenforst said. “Roberts Cove is a pretty tight-knit community and since the first Germanfest came to existence, we have been every year.”
Festival goers travel to Roberts Cove to drink steins of Warsteiner beer, listen to accordions, alphorns and yodelers and taste German fare, like what was on the menu for the Ohlenforsts on Saturday: “Schweinbraten.”
“ ‘Schweinbraten’ means roasted pork,” Ohlenforst said. “It is basically a hog rotisserie. We cook it slow and have a special seasoning with German ingredients. It is very similar to a cochon de lait. We cook it for 12 hours and then serve up samples.”
Randy Simon, vice president of the Germanfest and Ohlenforst’s brother-in-law, said it wasn’t long after he married his wife, Annette, that he was deeply enthralled into the Germanfest culture. He said when his father-in-law, Tommy Ohlenforst Sr., died, the tradition was left up to the next generation.
“When we lost big Tommy O, we took a lickin’,” Simon said, “But when you marry one person, you marry the whole clan. We came together and we run the farms and we do whatever we can for this event.”
Marcus Ohlenforst, Tommy’s brother, is an active-duty Marine who travels to Roberts Cove from wherever he is stationed to participate in the festival every year. He’s been attending the festival his entire life and said he doesn’t plan to miss any in the foreseeable future.
“If I’m not deployed, I’ll be here,” he said. “I came from Virginia this year. The German culture is one that draws you in. No matter how far away you go, it always draws you right back. Our families have been here for generations and we’ll always come back together.”
Ohlenforst, Zaunbrecher, Habetz and Cramer are just four of the 36 original German families represented at the Germanfest. Women donned traditional German dirndl dresses and men sported traditional lederhosen.
Sounds from the Auf Ghet’s German band serenaded the festival as members of the 36 original German families danced and drank from family-inspired beer steins.
“The stein is kind of our trademark,” Tommy Ohlenforst said. “You are going to see quite a few steins out here. It is a traditional beer drinking mug and Germans love to drink.”
Simon said the responsibility of upholding the Germanfest is one that is not taken lightly. He said the older generation is pushing the younger generation to take more of a leadership role and the younger guys are relishing in the responsibility.
“It is a slow transition from the older guard into the younger guard,” Simon said. “We are coming into our own and we want to build it into a bigger event. We just want to do something that commemorates German heritage. It encompasses a lot of local people and everybody puts their efforts into it.”