More than 1,500 people turned out to celebrate German food, entertainment, history, and culture Aug. 17 and 18 at the annual Oktoberfest-in-August celebration sponsored by the Plattduetsche Volksfest-Vereen of New York and New Jersey (PVV of NY & NJ) at North Bergen’s Schuetzen Park.
Proceeds from the event go to benefit the Fritz Reuter Life Care Center, on the grounds of Schuetzen Park, and other charities.
Approximately 500 visitors attended on the festival’s first day, a mild Saturday with temperatures in the 80s, but double that amount turned out on the Sunday, even with the threat of rain for much of the afternoon and evening.
Sunday featured a children’s “ice cream walk,” Bavarian dancers, a Masskrugstemmen (beer stein holding) competition, and the crowning of the 2013 Little Miss Schuetzen Park.
This was the 139th edition of the German-American Volkfest and 47th awarding of the Miss Schuetzen crown.
Food and souvenir stands
A dozen and a half food stands selling authentic German-American delicacies – including crowd favorite homemade potato pancakes – lined the edges of the eating area outside. Smoked eel and lox were available, and for reasonable prices. There was also a German bakery on hand selling an array of mouth-watering items. Of course there was a mini-German beer garden with authentic German beer.
“We came for the entertainment and the big beers,” said Jeff Deiudicibus, 27, of Bayonne, a Hoboken native who was there with a friend.
Both inside and out, a half dozen vendors sold German and American souvenirs, including flags, hats, and jewelry.
“I’m American, but really proud of my German descent,” said Nancy Weston of Hasbrouck Heights. “We come here every year. I love it.”
“We buy the potato pancakes,” said Henry Thomson of Butler. “We float around. We love the music. We sway to it.
“I’m American, but really proud of my German descent.” – Nancy Weston
Suzanne Bilyeu came all the way from Queens, N.Y., to enjoy the festivities. She met up with girlfriend Joyce Fraser of Hope.
“I love German culture and German food and music,” Bilyeu said. “I’ve been to German beer gardens and German festivals. I really enjoy them.”
Origin of ‘Schuetzen’
While many of the attendees were there to drink and eat, some were there to shoot. The indoor facility has a shooting range, and is in fact how the park derived its name: “Schuetzen” in German for shooting.
There is so much history involved with the organization, and with the park, according to Teri Nemeth, president of the PVV of NY & NJ.
“We started the club and the home 139 years ago,” she said. “We’re the oldest German-American area club.”
Club members said that migration to the suburbs and an aging population have taken their toll on membership, and that they are always looking for new people to join.
“As one of the largest German-American cultural and charitable organizations in New Jersey, we are always grateful to greet people of German extraction, as well as others of other ethnic and racial backgrounds,” said club spokesman John Lawrora in a written statement.
Fritz Reuter Executive Director and Financial Secretary Bernhard Bartsch attended the festival on Sunday and was happy to see the crowd, and appreciative of the proceeds, which will benefit his facility.
“We’re doing extremely well,” he said. “We survived the biggest recession since the depression, and we survived with flying colors.” Bartsch attributed that to having many volunteers, and keeping his nursing center census high.
“We have a capacity of 208 rooms, and we’re 95 percent filled, which is pretty much full capacity,” he said.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.