But you could argue that one of the most widespread heritages to reach Indiana would be the German heritage. From north to south and everywhere in between, German immigrants have left a lasting impression on Indiana. It is so great that IUPUI is home to the Max Kade German-American Center, the largest single repository for German heritage, studies, and collections in the state.
And one only has to look at the name of the breweries in Indiana’s history to see the impact Germans left on Hoosier brewing history. (See Indiana Beer) So it isn’t a surprise that Oktoberfest is a popular celebration all across Indiana; and that the largest and most popular Oktoberfest celebrations are organized by various German-American organizations.
Previously, I had written about the Oktoberfest celebration at the Liederkranz. They will, by the way, have their Oktoberfest on Saturday, October 2nd. But the largest Oktoberfest in Indianapolis is the one hosted by the German-American Klub at German Park at 8600 South Meridian Street in Indianapolis.
German Park was purchased in 1934 by the Federation of German Societies, which is run by a collection of member organizations, including German-American Klub (Edelweiss Restaurant is located within this Klub), German-American Klub Ladies Auxiliary, Greenhouse Growers Association, Heimath's Unterstutzungs Verein, Indianapolis Mannechor, Indianapolis Gardeners Benefit Society, Indianapolis Liederkranz, Indianapolis Liederkranz Ladies Society, The Indianapolis Saenger-Chor, Indianapolis Soccer Club, Indianapolis Vegetable Growers Association, Preussen Unterstutzungs Verein, and the South Side Turners. Many of the organizations hold public and private events on the grounds.
The 36th Annual GAK Oktoberfest was held this previous weekend. This year, the event was only four days long, though in the past it has been held over multiple weekends. In 2008 and 2009, Oktoberfest was relocated to the Indiana State Fairgrounds. But 2010 marked the first year of Oktoberfest’s return to German Park.
The biggest challenge that I saw for Oktoberfest was parking. While German Park did have parking available, on this particularly busy night, the lot was full. Thankfully, the church next door was providing parking for a donation. Admission to Oktoberfest was $5 per person, though children 12 and under received free admission. Yes, this is a family event.
Inside the festival, there were a variety of activities. There were two stages. The smaller stage had mostly rock-n-roll coverbands. The larger stage in the main pavilion alternated between two bands that did polka music and cover tunes in polka style (think polka version of “Margaritaville”). In the main pavilion, there were a lot of people dancing. Many were in traditional German fashion. And many knew how to do traditional German dances. During one break between sets, German folk dancing demonstrations and lessons were given.
There was also a children's area with inflatable bounce houses and pony rides. The area was $6 for all you could bounce. My four year old enjoyed this area with great frequency. Worth every penny.
There were several craft and merchandise vendors with a variety of regular festival fare as well as a good mix of German items, including a booth that sold nothing but authentic German beer steins. I think one stein that was for sale could hold a 1/6th barrel.
There was plenty of food as well. The majority of the food was of the German variety, as it should be. Claus’ German Meat Market had bratwurst, frickadellen, pork chops, sauerbraten, and other grilled goodies.
And, of course, there was beer. Multiple beer stands sold draft beer in 16 ounce cups or in boots (or steins, depending on the stand). The boots and steins could be refilled at a cheaper price. Being a good Oktoberfest, they had German beer. Warsteiner had three varieties available: Pilsner, Dunkel, and Oktoberfest. Anybody who had an interest in German and/or beer culture selected these beers.
Also available: Coors Light, Blue Moon, and Leinenkugel Oktoberfest. I saw a lot of Coors Light sold. I’m assuming those drinkers spent most of their time listening to the cover bands and saying things like, “Woo hoo! I’m drunk!” Certainly, I wish the domestic beers they offered were local beers or other German beers.
Most people enjoyed their food and beer at one of the many picnic tables that were set up in rows along the main pavilion. And that, in a nutshell, was Oktoberfest: beer, food, music, friends, and family. And for me, that was a lot of fun.