Southtown Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest is split between two weekends at Beethoven Maenerchor. For the latter of the two, the crowd was not lacking. A ten minute walk from our apartment, the Halle and Garten boasts the German influenced architecture typical of King William Historic District but with a different vibe than many of its contemporary-themed Southtown neighbors.

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Upon seeing that we were younger than the vast majority of the crowd, the older German man selling us tickets (while simultaneously lamenting the weakness of American beer) suggested maybe we shouldn’t buy too many until deciding whether or not the polka music would be to our liking. Little did he know I could have started singing along with band playing that was playing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as he spoke (assuming that particular melody doesn’t have any other lyrics).

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Coming from the land of dry counties, it’s still somewhat of a culture shock to see the family-friendly icehouse culture of Central Texas. It’s not like Texas has even remotely a monopoly on this in either the US or worldwide, but there really is nothing like it in Arkansas. From nuns, to tat and pierced teens, to dirndl sporting omas, and Filipino software developers as well as little kids that were very fascinated by the locks on the porta-potties until the dads shut it down – a little bit of everyone was brought together for bratwurst and beer and Josh’s newfound love: leberkäse on rye with caramelized onions.

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The man preparing the sandwich chuckled when we ordered. Little did he know that leberkäse’s blend of corned beef and bacon in a sliced SPAM-like consistency is a Filipino’s dream come true.

As the name suggests, Beethoven Maennerchor was formed as a men’s choir or chorus in 1867. While Oktoberfest is one of their larger events, it’s only a part of the society’s activities.

Nearly 150 years later, many things remain the same. The Maennerchor meets at 8 o’clock to rehearse its songbook full of rotating music for any one of the dozens of performances throughout the year. Today, practice is held on Tuesday evenings. However, the same sentiment for friendship, music, and heritage that radiate from the club are the same as they were then. The main building features a large performance space, which is used for concerts as well as other activities. Adjacent to the house is the Garten, which is the site of our Gartenfests, first Fridays, Oktoberfest and Fiesta festivities. A neighboring building, the Kuest Haus, is currently being renovated for use as a museum.

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In the spirit of the choral tradition, there was an unexpected singing of the US national anthem mid-festivity. The beer, “hotdogs” and live version of the Star Spangled Banner created a very ballpark feel. I half expected (and wanted) someone to shout “play ball!” after the song ended, but I was left disappointed.

My only regret is that we didn’t have our own lederhosen and dirndl for the event. But the best thing about Oktoberfest? It happens every year.

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