Last weekend was a great weekend for Oktoberfests in Florida’s Tampa Bay area. The Pinellas County German American Society’s Oktoberfest was in its final weekend, the 6th Annual Oktoberfest Tampa was in full swing in Curtis Hixon Park, Tarpon Springs was hosting their weekend-long Oktoberfest, and the Dunedin Brewery was celebrating its 16th Annual OctoBEERfest. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to cram all four into a single weekend, but I had a great time at the German American Society’s Oktoberfest on Saturday and at Oktoberfest Tampa on Sunday.
The German American Society of Pinellas has been hosting annual Oktoberfest celebrations at their clubhouse in Pinellas Park for 60 years. I was excited to attend “Tampa’s most authentic Oktoberfest” for the first time this year. What I enjoyed most about the German American Society’s Oktoberfest was the Bavarian dinner show feel. If you get there promptly at 5 pm, when the festival begins, you have plenty of time to buy food & drink tickets and assemble the Bavarian feast of your dreams.
The amount of Bavarian food offerings was truly impressive, including Bavarian-style pretzels, bratwurst, frankfurters, schnitzel, leberkase (German meat loaf), sauerkraut, potato pancakes, potato salad, rolls, blackforest cake, and apple strudel. As far as fest food goes, this was really good. The beer offerings included Spaten, the official beer of Oktoberfest in Munich; Big Storm Brewery’s Oktoberfest Maerzen; and Budweiser. An hour later, at 6pm, the entertainment begins. The band starts to play and a representative of the German American Society speaks about the history of Oktoberfest.
The entertainment continues with a parade of flags, ceremonial keg tapping, Bavarian folk dancing, and more music. Unlike the “drinking party” atmosphere of most local Oktoberfests, this particular Oktoberfest felt more like a celebration of heritage and tradition. Most people I spoke to had a slight German accent, and I was easily able to practice my German here with the many German Americans present. As such, the label “Tampa’s most authentic Oktoberfest” is appropriate for The German American Society’s Oktoberfest celebration.
The highlight of the show for me was seeing the Gulf Coast Shuhplattler dancers perform under the big tent. The group formed in 1977 to preserve traditional Bavarian dances of the late 19th century. All members of the Gulf Coast Shuhplattler group are also members of the Pinellas German American Society, where they currently practice for their performances. Over the years they have become a fixture of the Tampa Bay Oktoberfest, performing at the Top of the Bay Oktoberfest in Oldsmar, Oktoberfest Tampa, and Hofbrauhaus St. Petersburg.
Overall, this was a great Oktoberfest. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on Oktoberfest Tampa.
Part 2 is up. Click HERE to read.