Vibrant Germantown fuels Nashville’s Oktoberfest
At Oktoberfest, there is no such thing as “Too early for a beer.”
So, by the time the clock had ticked past noon on Saturday, the caramel-colored fall brews were flowing fast and the biergartens were packed at Nashville’s 36th annual street party celebrating German food and culture.
More than 100,000 people were expected to flood into Germantown over the course of the weekend-long event, which festival director of media Dave Jones said was the largest crowd ever.
Jones said that’s the result of the formerly rough historic district’s renaissance in recent years, as well as festival organizers’ work to make Oktoberfest an event for the whole community.
“I think we really tried hard this year to keep the elements of a traditional Oktoberfest with the fun oom-pah bands, but also focused on making this a fall festival … even if you’re not a beer-drinking Oktoberfest partier,” he said.
Still, Emelyne Bingham, who teaches at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music, said she just hopes that if the festival grows, it hangs onto its cultural essence.
“It’s been wonderful to watch the revitalization,” she said, her dog Callie resting in the shade by her feet. “But I hope they can keep what’s German about Germantown.”
She and her friend G.R. Davis — both sporting lederhosen and deep green Tyrolean hats — recalled hitting the festival when Germantown was far from the posh hangout that it is these days.
Davis, who has played tuba with the local polka band Die Musik Meisters at the festival, searched for a way to describe Germantown in the past.
“Maybe, ‘blighted?’ ” Bingham suggested.
She said she’s come to the festival off and on for years. It’s one of the only places she gets some of her favorite nostalgia-inducing foods. She paused to buy a $2 Ziploc bag of Springerle cookies from the St. Pius X Women’s Club booth behind her.
“It’s like only German grandmothers make these,” Bingham said, gesturing to the dense, faintly anise-flavored pastries. “They’re very time-consuming so making them is an act of love.”
Terry Ark, 68, said he likes to visit Oktoberfest in whatever city he happens to be living in — partly because he likes the food.
“I don’t drink, so I didn’t come for the beer,” he said.
Ark said he had ordered a bratwurst, some fried okra and a giant turkey leg to go.
But also, he said, Oktoberfest “is the only time of year I can wear this hat.” He showed off his own green Tyrolean cap, covered with pins — one of which signified a past Nashville Oktoberfest, while others signified various cities around Germany.
Richard and Dinah Caulfield of Antioch shared a gyro and watched the passers-by.
Parents shuffled past with strollers and gamboling pups, while plaid-clad twentysomethings stood in long beer lines. Craft vendors nearby sold everything from soap to Christmas ornaments.
“A friend said it’s really nice,” he said, noting the pleasant weather. “I’m glad it stopped raining.”
As for the rough parking situation, 32-year-old Austin Cook said it wasn’t a problem compared to the various weekend events in Franklin, where he grew up.
He and Madalyn Vines, who wore heart-shaped sunglasses and a leather jacket, sat on a retaining wall enjoying Yazoo Brewing Co. suds.
She said she had mostly been to Germantown to go to Sounds baseball games. Cook said he had found himself there more and more frequently.
“It’s really up and coming,” he said.
Not far away, Davis and Die Musik Meisters had taken the stage. Though more typically “Nashville” guitar-backed music had played earlier, people in the crowd now bobbed their heads to a polka.