'O'zapt is!' Oktoberfest celebrates German culture

The North Main Corridor will be busy this weekend. Friday, Sept. 15, kicks off the Forest City Oktoberfest. Sponsored by Der Rathskeller restaurant and The German Club of Rockford, the festival will be at the southeast corner of Auburn and Main streets, in the parking lot between Main Street and Toner Avenue, and will run through Sunday, Sept. 17.

A tradition in the German culture, Oktoberfest will feature American and German food, German bands and dancers, and live music from some of the area’s top musicians. The German Club, Der Rathskeller and Altamore’s Ristorante will cater the event. Menu items will include bratwursts, potato pancakes and pizza.

Following a Bavarian tradition of not beginning a genuine Oktoberfest until the first keg of beer is tapped, Forest City Oktoberfest will start the same way. Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen, after breaking the keg’s seal, will declare the party under way by yelling, “O’zapt is!” (Bavarian for “It’s tapped!”). The opening ceremony starts at 5 p.m.

Two well-known cultural acts will be featured throughout the weekend. The Human Glockenspiel and The Trachtenkapelle Harmonie Weyer will collectively do 21 shows.

The Human Glockenspiel, known for its popular pantomiming of chopping wood, sawing logs and humorously choreographed dancing, will perform 11 times throughout the weekend. The group is based in Hartford, Wis., and is a popular annual attraction at Milwaukee’s German Fest.

Trachtenkapelle Harmonie Weyer, a 40-piece brass band, will make a three-day stop in Rockford as part of its 15-date tour of the region for 10 shows. The band, from Weyer, Austria, was booked and flown to the U.S. by The German Club.

Mike McIntyre will bring his popular band to the event for five performances. Since 1990, McIntyre’s act has been popular on the dance band circuit with a large repertoire of music, including polka, country and rock ’n’ roll. McIntyre has five albums to his credit.

Headlining Friday’s entertainment lineup is Rockford’s Southern Heritage, one of the area’s premier bands. Covering material by artists such as Travis Tritt, Brooks and Dunn and Merle Haggard, Southern Heritage will hit the stage at 10:30 p.m. and play until midnight.

H.M.S., led by guitarist and vocalist Miles Nielsen, will cap Saturday’s schedule. Nielsen is a former member of the band Harmony Riley and is co-owner of The FUZE recording studio in Rockford. H.M.S., which also contains members Mark Muraski, Jim Westin, Andy Scarpaci and Tony Berkman, is fresh off its On the Waterfront and sold-out New American Theater dates. The show starts at 9:15 p.m.

The Miss Oktober Competition, open to young women in high school and college, will be judged Friday. The winners will receive scholarships from The German Club. Judging will be Friday at 7:30 p.m. on the Oktoberfest stage.

A family event, the Forest City Oktoberfest will offer an array of activities for children. Face painting, arts and crafts and a coloring contest will be availble for the kids.

Proceeds from the festival will go to benefit The German Club of Rockford. The event concludes at 9 p.m., Sunday.

Admission is $5 per day. Tickets can be purchased on site. Children younger than 12 and active military personnel with ID will be admitted free.

More information can be found at www.forestcityoktoberfest.com and www.germanclubofrockford.org, or by calling Mike DuPre at Der Rathskeller at 963-2922.

From the Sept. 13-19, 2006, issue

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