NEWINGTON - Mark your calendars and iron your lederhosen: A German celebration that happens only once every two years is two weeks away.
The Hartford Sangerbünd’s biennial Bierfest is set for Friday, Aug. 24 through Sunday, Aug, 26 at the clubhouse at 719 North Mountain Road.
Club members are known for harnessing food, beer and entertainment straight from Germany for the occasion. They expect to draw several thousand people. Many will have no German heritage, but that’s just fine with the Sangerbünd.
In fact, Bierfest Co-chairman Lance Frazon is French and Irish, but his wife Linda is the daughter of one of the club’s founders. The couple’s daughters Jenny and Shaylynn are helping to carry on the family’s German ancestry by helping out at the club. Both will be among at least 230 volunteers at the upcoming three-day celebration.
“We ask family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, anyone we know to come help out,” Frazon said. “Sometimes we get over 5,000 visitors.”
The club has built strong relationships with beverage and food vendors over the last few decades, so there is no chance they will run out of the good stuff.
“The beer is just being shipped to this country now,” Frazon pointed out. “Hartford Distributors has been supplying to the German Club since the 1960s. They fill up a truck with as much as we think we can sell and will load up more when we sell out.”
This year’s lineup will feature Spaten Lager, Optimator and Oktoberfest, Hofbräu Lager and Oktoberfest, Franziskaner Hefe-Weizen, Schofferhofer and Radeberger Pils.
Bratwurst, knockwurst and other German specialties are purchased from Adolf’s Kitchen in Hartford. There will also be schnitzel, potato salad and potato pancakes made on-site the traditional German way. German cakes and pastries are also handmade by ladies in the club.
Set to perform music in the big tent is Blechdurscht XXL, flying over from the home country for the event. In the “Bäckerei Kaffeehaus” where coffee and cakes will be sold, Reinhold Wiedemann will perform on the zither. Alpenland Taenzer will also entertain visitors throughout the weekend with Schuhplatter Dancing.
“Come for the atmosphere, music, beer and good food,” Frazon said. “What else do you need?”
All of this conjures up Gemütlichkeit - the word used to convey the feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer.
“I remember my first Bierfest,” Co-Chair Dennis Herner said this week. “Sitting under an oak tree, listening to the band and enjoying the beer. I just had a wonderful time.”
Some years down the road, Herner found himself in charge of running this and other events.
“When you start to go every week you find yourself more active in the club and it just happens,” he explained.
The club recently celebrated its 160th anniversary with a concert and banquet dinner in Manchester. Attendees were surprised with a special treat, a slide show of photographs from the Sangerbünd’s early days in Hartford.
“Anytime you lose a piece of history it’s almost like when a plant or animal goes extinct,” Herner said. “The Hartford Sangerbünd is a living organism. Not only is it alive, but it teaches you about the history and traditions of your ancestors and friends. People who made a great contribution not only to the American way of life, but also to life in Germany.”
He’s hoping Germans and non-Germans alike will join him at Bierfest.
“You don’t get the chance to see a zither player too often,” Herner added of what he is most anticipating. “He is a wonderful, world class player who knows all the old German songs.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go:
WHAT: German Bierfest
WHEN: Aug. 24 from 4-11 p.m., Aug. 25 from 2-11 p.m.; Aug. 26 from 12-6 p.m.
WHERE: Hartford Sangerbünd, 719 North Mountain Road Newington
HOW: Admission is $10, kids under 17 free, food and beer separate