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Ocktoberfest event set for Sept. 25

| Thursday, Sept. 9, 2004

CHALK HILL -- A small portion of Fayette County will become Germanic territory Sept. 25 when the proprietors of Woodland Zoo and Amphitheater host an authentic Oktoberfest celebration. The day-long event will coincide with the 84 Lumber Classic professional golf tournament at nearby Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa.

With overflowing mugs of Warsteiner beer and handfuls of bratwurst, festival-goers will see the best Germanic culture has to offer, according to Eric Whittman of DANK, or the Deutchland American National Kongress. The Austrian-born retiree will act as a consultant for activities at the event.

"We have been helped a great deal by (Whittman)," said Ron Nehls, former county commissioner and coordinator of the event. "He has been right there with us every step of the way offering advice and guidance."

Whittman was instrumental in bringing the DANK Bavarian Oktoberfest to Pittsburgh's Station Square, and the Pennsylvania Bavarian Oktoberfest to Washington, Pa. He said German-Americans represent the largest ethnic group in southwestern Pennsylvania.

"When we do these things, it is to assist other nonprofits," Whittman said. "Our festivals have reached tens of thousands of people."

The owners of Woodland Zoo and Amphitheater hope this year's Oktoberfest celebration will be the start of an annual event.

"This is our first year for this Oktoberfest event, but it has already taken on such a professional approach that we have had requests to extend the number of days," Sonny Herring said. "However, we feel we should take it slow and make sure we do it right as we move forward."

Oktoberfest originated as a celebration that lasted several weeks when King Ludwig of Bavaria was married during his reign in the 1800s, Whittman said. The beloved king was joined in matrimony during the third week of September, which is when Oktoberfest is traditionally held. The reception, however, lasted well in to October -- the festival's namesake.

"I hope we have the opportunity to celebrate Germanic heritage to the fullest," Whittman said.

Alois and Kara Maierhofer of the Mozart Restaurant in Canton, Ohio, will serve a variety of authentic German foods along with several local caterers and organizations. DANK will host a pastry booth with strudel, torts and German chocolate cake.

"I want the customer to feel that the visit to our food area, in itself, will be a pleasant experience," Alois said.

The Joe Wendel German Orchestra and Uniontown's Augsburg German Band will fill the mountain air with ethnic music for atmosphere and dancing. There will also be a special performance by Uniontown's Chuck Cantalamessa.

A shuttle bus service will carry crowds to and from the 84 Lumber Classic to the Oktoberfest celebration a mile away. The day will begin at noon and end at 10 p.m.

"The arrangements for all of the activities have been extremely well planned," Herring said. "There are 131 acres here, so there will be plenty of parking for all patrons."

For more information about Oktoberfest or other events at Woodland Zoo and Amphitheater, call 724-329-1776.

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