Augustoberfest Celebrates Hagerstown’s German Heritage

Hagerstown resident Marc Rice has attended Augustoberfest for the past two years.

On Saturday, the former Marine said he enjoyed the event because it showcases German culture, especially beer.

“I enjoy the festival of it,” he said. “It’s nice to see people having fun.”

Rice was among the roughly 5,000 people organizers were expecting for the annual two-day festival, which kicked off Saturday and features traditional German dancing, polkas and food served in a Bavarian beer garden.

Jill Colbert, president of Augustoberfest, said organizers plan the event around 11 months out of the year. The only reason they take off in September is to do the accounting and figure out how many people showed up to the festival the month before.

“It gives everyone time so we can get together in October to find out how many people were here…if we made any profit,” she said.

If Augustoberfest makes a profit, Colbert said the money is used to help students from Hagerstown and its sister city, Wesel, Germany travel on an exchange program.

Now in its 21st year, Augustoberfest is billed as an event that showcases Hagerstown’s German heritage. The city was founded in the 18th century by German immigrant Jonathan Hager.

Men in lederhosen and women in traditional Bavarian dress danced and sang German tunes as people sat under a huge tent and drank German beer and ate German food, which included roast pork, bratwurst , sauerkraut, spaetzle noodles and soft pretzels.

Colbert said around 150 volunteers helped with the event when she first came on board 10 years ago. Today, that number has grown to more than 300.

“We have a lot of regular volunteers,” she said of chefs, beer pourers and food servers. “After the first year, you’re hooked and you keep coming back.”

Hagerstown resident Yvette Weedon said she started volunteering six years ago. During this time, she worked in the food tent and the children’s area, which offers crafts and puppet shows.

“It’s good to volunteer and give back to the community,” she said.

Weedon added that she and some of the other volunteers like to relax in the beer tent after a busy day of volunteering.

“It’s good to experience German culture,” she said. “It’s just fun to see people drinking and being happy.”

Chuck Snyder of Emmitsburg, Md. raises his beer mug in celebration as members of Alt Washingtonia play anthems from all branches of the U.S. military to honor service personnel Saturday during Augustoberfest at the downtown Hagerstown.