German-Americans and other residents of North Bergen celebrated Oktoberfest in Schuetzen Park on Saturday, Aug. 18 and Sunday, Aug. 19, the 138th year of the German-American Volksfest.
In 1874, the first festival was held in a large area that later became Schuetzen Park at 3167 Kennedy Blvd. At that time, the festival was held for one week and was attended by over 100,000 people.
A year later, the Plattaduetsch Volksfest-Vereen (PPV), was formed and incorporated as a not-for-profit group that included a large number of German clubs.
“I think people are rediscovering their heritage, their roots.” – Lenny Coyne.
Preserving German heritage
Funds from the annual festival are donated to the Fritz Reuter Altenheim Continuous Care Retirement Community along with other charities. The festival was sponsored by PVV of New York and New Jersey.
“Everything we do here is for the benefit of the Fritz Reuter home,” said former Honorary PPV President Dieter Pfister.
Seniors from the home took part in the festivities, many of them dancing in their seats and enjoying each other’s company.
Admission for the event was $6 for adults, while children got in for free. The folk festival was open to celebrants regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.
The event featured “The Austrian Boys Band,” Masskrugstemmen Competition, a German church service at Altenheim Chapel, folk dancers, the Little Miss Schuetzen Park Contest, the crowning of Straw King, a Raffle Drawing, and Prize Shooting.
A Little Miss Schuetzen Park pageant was held on Sunday for girls who are German or part-German and between the ages of 7 to 12. The winners received a free gown and will ride on the Little Miss Schuetzen Park float in the Steuben Day Parade down New York’s Fifth Avenue on Sept. 15. The parade will be broadcast on PBS. For further information about the parade visit www.germanparadenyc.org.
Frederick Hansen, master of ceremonies at the North Bergen celebration, will also be the announcer at the Steuben Day Parade.
Range Master Bill Kohler took pride in the shooting range, the oldest aspect of the festival. His children Ben and Rebecca volunteered at the event, making it a family effort.
“Shooting was a major activity within the German along with other communities as well,” said Kohler.
For sale were traditional flower adorned head garments called Kranz that are normally made of real flowers. In Germany they are worn for festivals or special events.
For further information about the Oktoberfest or any other upcoming events visit www.volkfest.org.
German culture was on the forefront.
“It’s a resurgence of the German heritage,” said Pfister.
“It is always a good feeling to be able to share heritage and traditions with others,” said current PVV President Teri Nemeth.
Tradition has been passed down from one generation to the next. Lorelei Castellani brings her daughter Cameron to the festival yearly. Cameron Castellani gets a Kranz to wear along with a traditional German gown.
“It’s a great German tradition and we enjoy the music, the food,” said Lorelei Castellani.
A love connection was made at an event much like Oktoberfest between Barbara and husband Lenny Coyne. The couple met at his first event dancing in lederhosen (shorts with H-shaped suspenders) traditionally worn by men in Alpine regions. His group, d’heimatsgruppe, has performed at the festival since 1994.
“I think people are rediscovering their heritage, their roots,” said Coyne.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org