Oktoberfest in Warners Bay
"Zur Bewahrung der deutschen Sprache und Kultur"
Historically, Oktoberfest dates back to the festivities around the marriage of Ludwig, the first King of Bavaria, and Maria of Sachsen-Hilderhausen on 12th October 1810. People of all classes from around the kingdom were invited. The great success of these celebrations led Oktoberfest to become an annual event in its own right held in the Bavarian capital of Munich.
Given the significance of Oktoberfest as a community event for German groups around the world, it was not a surprise that it did not take long from the founding of the Club in 1957 that it held its first Oktoberfest on 16th October 1959. Much in the tradition of the festival in Munich, with Lebkuchenherzen (gingerbread hearts) for sale and the opening procession being held by the Müncher Kindl (Inge Grabmeier) who welcomed the 300 participants.
From 1975, the Club proudly held Oktoberfest at its newly opened Clubhouse. On 10th October 1975, Maximina Trlin opened the three-day festivities in her role as Münchner Kindl, followed by the entry of Heinrich Umbach’s goat drawing the four-wheeled wooden cart carrying a keg o beer. Then, the bands took over: "The Melotones" on Friday, Peter lrgang on Saturday, and the "Elite International" on Sunday. All bands played tirelessly until 1 am. There was also the first performance of a "Bander Tanz" by the Folk Dancing Group led by Michael Gronold.
From 1976, Oktoberfest was held across two lots at the rear of the Clubhouse after the Club had successfully purchased the adjacent 4 acre lot. A large marquee was erected and equipped with a stage, a dance floor, and a bar at each end. The three-day festivities started on Friday 8th October with the Münchner Kindl marching in to the music of "The Insulaners" from Sydney. On the following days, "The Austrians" from Sydney played in the Clubhouse from 8 pm to midnight. Further entertainment included the Club’s adult Folk Dancing Group, singing and folk dancing by the “Alpini’s” and yodelling and zither-playing by Lotte and Johanna.
Oktoberfest steadily grew over the following years. In 1977, a larger marquee was erected and a Bavarian Folk Dancing Group joined from Adelaide. In 1978, an NBN 3 television crew filmed about 800 pupils from Newcastle schools who had arrived on buses visiting the grounds on Friday, 6th October. On the following day, Oktoberfest 1978 was officially opened by Mr Geoff R. Pasterfield, Mayor of Lake Macquarie Shire Council. In 1979, Oktoberfest was held over two weekends, with events held from 5th to 7th October in the grounds and from 12th to 14th October in the Clubhouse.
In the 1980s, Oktoberfest became bigger than ever. After the completion of the “Festhalle” in 1984, the year 1986 saw a record of 20,000 visitors from all over the region and beyond. Each year, Entertainment Chairman Karl Bellemann relied on about 200 volunteers to make the celebrations possible. Eddie and Irene Rottinger attended to all the electrical requirements. Subgroups managed dedicated stalls, including the shooting gallery, barbeque, and potato pancakes, to name a few. Warners Bay Lions Club lent a helping hand in collecting and disposing of empty bottles and other refuse.
From 1993, Oktoberfest had to be scaled back significantly due to declining attendance and increasing requirements around liquor trading and security. Over the period from 1995 to 1998, security guard expenses doubled to $7,000. New regulations also stipulated that after 8 pm beer had to be dispensed in plastic cups, not in bottles or traditional steins as those could be used as weapons in a brawl. Many of the volunteers who made Oktoberfest possible over the decades had reached their 70s by the end of the 1990s. After Oktoberfest 1998 yielded a loss of $4,790, the following years continued the festivities as an indoor event inside the Clubhouse.
NBN News on Oktoberfest 1986