Oktoberfest at Galveston’s First Evangelical Lutheran Church features a wide array of sausages, strudel and other German favorites, but according to Pastor Richard Rhoades, that’s only the second-best thing about the annual celebration. “Last year was my first, and the food was great, but what I loved most about it was seeing so many people sitting and talking,” he said. “The utter sense of “Hey, we’re out here having a good time” for multiple generations of families was amazing.”
Oktoberfest gets underway at 5 p.m. Friday with a “tapping of the keg” ceremony and an evening of food and live music, and continues from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. Highlights of the menu include bratwurst, knackwurst and “Wurstabendessen,” a special dinner of German and Polish sausage accompanied by traditional German side dishes, including sauerkraut, red cabbage and German potato salad. “We cook 1,200 dinners, and we always run out,” event chair Marilyn Haupt said. “All the recipes are from the families of our congregation, passed down for generations, and now interpreted by Benno’s Catering.”
Desserts are plentiful, with Helmut’s Strudel baked fresh on-site and other desserts made by First Lutheran’s congregation available for purchase. For those who prefer to leave their dessert-eating to chance, the popular Cake Wheel offers the chance to win a lovingly homemade cake.
New this year is a wine-tasting event Friday night that pairs five wines from Haak Vineyards and Winery with tastes of complementary food. “The experts for Haak will give a talk and share some information on the four wines of theirs that we sell at Oktoberfest, plus their award-winning Blanc du Bois Madeira,” Haupt said. The wines chosen for their compatibility with German food are a dry Blanc du Bois, a sweet Blanc du Bois, Malbec, and Amorcito, a red note with strawberry and cherry notes. Participants in the wine tasting, which requires a reserved ticket, receive a commemorative wineglass.
“Friday’s fun,” Pastor Rhoades observed, “there’s music on both the main stage and the family stage, both German and American, from five o’clock until we close.” Local band Mid-Life Crisis takes the main stage at 7, with German bands AlpenMusikanten, Valina Polka and strolling tubameisters setting the mood at the family stage.
Oktoberfest is open to the entire community, and that includes the younger generation. “We want people to bring their children and have fun,” Rhoades said. This year, the children’s activities area has expanded to fill the nearby park board parking lot with pony rides, inflatables, a rock-climbing wall, games and a petting zoo.
Admission to Oktoberfest is free, and parking is available on streets near the church, which is located at 24th and Winnie streets. German dinners are $15, and items are also available a la carte. Advance tickets for the Haak wine tasting are $20, and any remaining spaces will be sold on Friday evening for $25. A full schedule of activities is available online at GalvestonOktoberfest.com.