A Little Germany, a Lot of Fun

Reto (left) and Andreas from The Swiss Bakery prepare bratwurst for the hungry Oktoberfest crowd in Kentlands on Oct. 14.

On Oct. 14, some 4,000 miles away from Bavaria, families watched dancers in lederhosen, ate pretzels and sausages while listening to a live German music, went on pony rides and painted pumpkins.

At the 21st annual Kentlands Oktoberfest, people from all around Montgomery County came to celebrate a little bit of Germany and a lot of family-friendly entertainment. As in years past, the festival was sponsored by the city of Gaithersburg and the Kentlands Citizens’ Assembly.

The event officially took place from 1 – 4 p.m., but crowds could be seen filling up Kentlands parking lots and side streets earlier. Families walked hand-in-hand towards the Village Green, where the bulk of the festival took place. The sunny, mild weather seemed to encourage greater crowds than in some years past. While attendance numbers were not available at press time, many festival-goers commented on the size of the event. One passerby commented to a friend, “It seems like it’s a lot busier this year!”

For those looking for traditional Oktoberfest fun, the Alt-Washingtonia Bavarian dancers and Alte Kameraden band were located in the center of the Village Green. Men and women in authentic German garb entertained audiences not only with dancing and singing, but even the occasional Alphorn!

Growlers Pub/Restaurant of Gaithersburg provided beer, as well as German sausages, to add to the experience for adults. But it was the kids who found this year’s Oktoberfest a veritable wonderland.

Beyond the stages on the Village Green, the festival may have been short on Bavarian traditions, but it made up for this with endless amusement for the 12-and-under crowd. Next to the Arts Barn, an autumnal character on stilts posed for pictures with families, while enraptured children watched a magician perform tricks and an organ grinder make animatronic birds and monkeys respond to his music. And for finicky youngsters, carnival food stands far-outnumbered those featuring traditional German cuisine.

The Kentlands Mansion area brimmed with children’s activities. A pumpkin-painting tent was located on the front lawn of the mansion, and a bit closer to Inspiration Lake was a face-painting station, a moon bounce, horse-drawn wagon rides and more.

Joy Lee and her daughter Kathleen, who was dressed to the nines as Cinderella, waited patiently in the long line to get in the saddle of one petite equestrian creature.

“We just got here but [Kathleen] saw the [sign for] pony rides, so we had to come straight here,” said Lee.

Although Oktoberfest was a free event, some activities, such as the pony rides, did incur a small fee. But for Lee and many other area families, it was well worth it for the dose of local weekend fun.

“The price,” said Lee, “is reasonable. It was like triple the price [for pony rides and similar activities/rides] at the Montgomery County Fair. I only wish it went longer … because my daughter wants to do it all!”

Convenience and accessibility were also a factor for Lee and other festival attendees. Free wheelchair accessible shuttle service ran regularly during festival hours to and from satellite parking just off of Quince Orchard Road. But many people chose to park nearby or walk.

“We actually just parked at Whole Foods and walked,” said Lee.

Some of those without children didn’t seem to appreciate this year’s Oktoberfest as much as families. While the music, dancing and food could be enjoyed by all, the plethora of commercial venders, car salesmen, political (and occasionally religious) ads and tents, Halloween décor, and expensive beer were seen by some as drawbacks that took away from the authentic atmosphere. One young adult was overheard saying, in an exasperated tone, “Ugh! Its like $6 for a little [plastic stein of] beer!”

Many adults simply stood and chatted with neighbors, much as they would any other Sunday on the Village Green.

Others, though, including vendors, did find the occasion special. Vanessa Nakoski, an artisan from Arbutus, said her tent had been busy but she was still able to enjoy the music and weather. “This is a beautiful neighborhood,” Nakoski said.

Nakoski sells handmade soaps at several markets each week, but this was her first year at Kentlands Oktoberfest. She said she liked the strong community feel of the festival and had already enjoyed some kettlecorn from the tent of Kentlands business Popcorn Mama.

“I am enjoying the day,” Nakoski said. “I appreciate the perfect weather … and all the families. And dogs!”