Gemütlichkeit is a German term for “good feelings,” noted Keith Oldendorf, the president of the Deutsches Haus. And it can be found in copious amounts during the organization’s 2014 Oktoberfest, held again this year in Kenner’s Rivertown.
The festivities begin when Kenner Mayor Joe Yenni taps the first keg on Friday. They continue through this weekend and the following two weekends.
Oktoberfest features traditional German fare, folk music and more than 70 beers on tap. Activities also on the roster include the Oktoberfest 5k and the adorable dachshund races.
A masskrugstemmen — or, a beer stein holding contest — will be held on each evening of the festival: Oldendorf said this test of stamina is not as easy as one would think.
The Deutsches Haus began hosting its Oktoberfest celebration in 1928. Local popularity grew during the World’s Fair in 1984, when the Deutsches Haus hosted a German beer garden.
The iconic Haus on South Galvez was torn down to make way for the new hospital complex, and while the cultural center is being rebuilt on Moss Avenue, activities have been relocated to 1023 Ridgewood Drive, Metairie. Oktoberfest has been a hit in the spacious Rivertown area, officials said.
“For the last four years, we’ve had amazing success in Kenner,” said Oktoberfest Chairman Tommy Mertz. “Oktoberfest has always been tremendously successful for us. ... We look forward to another prosperous year at Rivertown.”
For the 2014 event in Kenner, the Haus expects around 20,000 visitors.
Oktoberfest delivers a live music lineup with Das Ist Ludwig, Prost, Yodel Blitz, the Pfister Sisters and the Bayou Bavarians — a Haus favorite. Guests will hear a wide range of musical styles — from polkas and waltzes to yodeling and sing-alongs and the beloved chicken dance.
Before warbling to the sounds of the Rhineland, make sure that you are equipped with a satisfying beer to quench your thirst. The selection of brews include: Bitburger Pilsner, Köstritzer, Paulaner and Warsteiner Dunkel, among many more. Oldendorf noted that they will have a special Oktoberfest brew, bearing a Deutsches Haus label, created by the 40 Arpent Brewery in Arabi.
Of course, Oktoberfest is the perfect opportunity for foodies to delve into authentic German cuisine.
“This is the one time of the year when most people come down and have a German dinner,” said Joe Stephany, the Haus chef. “We serve old-style traditional German food, but I try to incorporate some new things along the way.”
The meals are prepared by a bustling kitchen of hard-working volunteers.
“We all put in our time,” Stephany said. “We all come back every year and work together, and we know what to do.”
For first-time festgoers, Stephany recommends the cabbage rolls, which are stuffed with ground beef.
“That is as traditional as it gets,” he said. “If you’re looking for an old-fashion German dish that you’re not going to get anywhere else, then that would be the dish to get.”
The Oktoberfest menu also includes German-style meatloaf with mushroom sauce, beer-glazed smoked pork loin, and sautéed potatoes with liverwurst and onions.
Although the menu items change each weekend, a variety of sausages like grilled bratwurst, grilled weisswurst and boiled knackwurst are available on each day.
But the most popular dish seems to be the schnitzel, which is offered on the second and third weekend.
Schnitzel is basically a boneless meat, beaten thin, breaded and fried. The Haus will serve one variation of fried pork schnitzel with a mushroom sauce and another with a jaeger sauce.
“Everyone loves the schnitzel,” Stephany said. “Most people don’t know what it is, but they love it. Maybe just because of the way it sounds.”
Regardless of the reason, the Haus plans to sell around 3,000 schnitzel dinners during the last two weekends.
The sense of community is what Stephany loves most about Oktoberfest.
“When we get out to the festival, I see the same people I see every year — both volunteers and guests — that come to the kitchen and tell me hello,” he said. “You have that family atmosphere. So many people, some who move out of the region, they come to the festival every year. That’s great to see.”