Tapping into authentic German culture with
Columbus’ original Oktoberfest
You wouldn’t necessarily know that the quiet, understated building, on Front Street in the heart of the Brewery District, is the home of the Germania Singing and Sport Society, a club of 260 members that enjoy gathering in the spirit of community and celebrating all things German. Behind the doors with the word “Germania” scripted above is a place where the old world traditions of music and dancing are cornerstones of all festivities – and there are a lot of festivities.
“The choruses (singers) and Volkstänzer (dancers) are the heart of our club,” states John Kneller, Chair of Germania’s Trustees. Both perform at all Germania functions but also perform locally for various charitable organizations and churches as well as at public concerts and exhibitions, occasionally joining with other clubs like the Swiss Club Columbus or the Columbus Männerchor. “We perform all over the place – not just Columbus. We’ve been all over Ohio, the country and even occasionally travel to Europe to perform,” continues Kneller. “It’s a celebration of the German culture, and audiences appreciate the connection, and sometimes reconnection, with European traditions and customs.”
The organization originally formed in 1866 and in 1926 purchased its current location from a prominent local brew master. The Germania served for many years as place of welcome for immigrants adjusting to their new environment and language. Today, the Germania Sport and Singing Society serves to retain and promote all that is good about German culture.
More recently, Germania’s doors have been opened to the public on a more frequent basis. Through the introduction of Sommerfest (pronounced Zomerfest), on five separate occasions, the public was welcomed into Germania and were treated to an authentic German experience complete with men in Lederhosen and ladies in Dirndl, home-cooked sauerkraut, schnitzel and bratwurst, Warsteiner beer, singing, dancing, and Columbus’ only grassy Biergarten. “Sommerfest was well received and we were delighted to meet so many of our neighbors and make so many new friends. Oktoberfest is next, and we’re really looking forward to welcoming many more people into our fantastic, albeit smaller, version of the Munich celebration.”
Indeed, this year Germania will celebrate its 54th Oktoberfest, crowning it Columbus’ original. It will take place on September 15th and 16th at Germania (543 South Front St, Brewery District). Burgermeister (Mayor) Coleman will tap the official first keg on Saturday at 5 pm, which starts the beer flowing, Bratwurst grilling, Polka bands playing and traditional folk dancing.
Kneller, who is chair of this year’s Oktoberfest, shows a bit of a bias towards Germania’s Oktoberfest. “It is as close to an authentic German festival, found in villages all over Germany, as you will find anywhere in the States. It’s family, friends and neighbors coming together to enjoy and celebrate time together; where there is a spirit of belonging, welcome, and peace of mind. Germans have a word for this – Gemütlichkeit -and frankly, it flows as easily at the Germania Oktoberfest as the beer does in our Biergarten!”
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