Suburban Germans embraced their heritage and all the polka music, schnitzel and beer that comes with it Saturday during the opening of the 10th annual Fox Valley Oktoberfest in Batavia.
"Oktoberfest is a German's time to say 'Yes, I'm German,'" said Tyler Davis, an Oswego High School senior and German Club president who volunteered serving food at Saturday's event. "You get to experience a culture that's too often overlooked."
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While many people have some degree of German heritage, Tyler said few truly identify with the culture. He said events like Oktoberfest, held along the Fox River in downtown Batavia, allow people to experience the music, language, traditional dress, food and drink without making a trip to Europe.
"I had schnitzel, observed the band," Tyler said. "It was a lot of fun."
Oktoberfest also raises money for scholarships given by the Fox Valley chapter of DANK, or the Deutsch Amerikanischer National Kongress.
"The whole purpose of this Oktoberfest is first of all to give some community outlet or entertainment," said Willi Gohs of Batavia, president of DANK's Fox Valley Chapter. "And the money goes to scholarships we give to high school seniors who want to study German in college."
A few members of the DANK national organization, including Eric Trainer of Pittsburgh, made the trip to help out at the Fox Valley event Saturday.
"We just came for the Oktoberfest," Trainer said. "My wife is currently in Germany for business, so I had nothing better to do."
At Oktoberfest, Germans and their friends danced to tunes spun by International Musicale German-American DJ; ate authentic German recipes including bratwurst, German meatloaf and apple strudel prepared by chef Clemens Hog; and drank German brews from tall steins bearing the Fox Valley Oktoberfest logo.
The carnival rides outside the entertainment tent remained mostly dormant during a drizzly Saturday afternoon, spurred to action only by a brave few who had the Ferris wheel and carousel all to themselves.
As crowds built midafternoon, DANK members held a ceremonial tapping of a festival keg of Munich lager flown in directly from Germany.
"It's not filtered as much as the beer is for export, so it tastes a whole lot better," Gohs said.
Fox Valley Oktoberfest concludes Sunday, running from noon to 8 p.m. at North Island Avenue and Houston Street in Batavia.