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Published: Tuesday, 8/21/2012

German-American Festival boasts deep roots

Food, beer to be on tap this weekend

BLADE STAFF

German food, music, and beer will be in plentiful supply in Oregon this weekend as the annual German-American Festival returns to Oak Shade Grove.

Organizers predict 35,000 visitors will walk the 10 wooded acres of the festival's site, 3624 Seaman Rd., on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Opening time on Friday is 6 p.m., with a parade and ceremony at 8. Saturday's hours are 2 p.m. to 1 a.m., and Sunday's are noon to 11 p.m.

Admission is $7 at the door, but tickets can be purchased for $6 online at germanamericanfestival.net or gafsociety.org/fest.htm. Navy members participating in Navy Week will be admitted free all weekend. Active military, police, fire, and EMS personnel will have free admission on Sunday.

Parking is available at the main entrance on Seaman, as well as at gates on Starr Avenue and Corduroy Road. There also will be parking at Starr Elementary School, Fassett Middle School, and Clay High School, with shuttle service to the festival. Shuttle service also is available for $6 from locations across the area: Arnie's Again Bar and Grill at Westgate and Levis Commons; Berger's Olde Tyme, 1742 West Laskey Rd.; the Lucas County Recreation Center in Maumee; the Mayfly Tavern, 4532 N. Summit St.; and the Attic on Adams, 1701 Adams St.

This is the festival's 47th year, according to the event's chairman, Timothy Pecsenye. "We're the oldest of all the ethnic festivals," he said. "All the others are modeled after us."

The festival dates to 1966, at Raceway Park on Telegraph Road in Toledo. It moved to the county recreation center in 1975, then to its permanent home in Oregon in 1985.

The idea for the festival came from Fritz Hetzel, a German immigrant who was inspired by the Oktoberfest in Munich, Bavaria, a 16-day festival held annually from late September to early October.

He urged German-American groups to hold one major event instead of their own lesser festivals. That umbrella organization became the German-American Festival Society, comprising seven local German and Swiss-American societies.

Oregon Mayor Mike Seferian said the festival is a valuable identifier.

"Some say it's an inconvenience, but it is one of the things that draws people to Oregon," he said. "Oregon is not a tourist city, and this tells people that we exist and we are a good place to house your business and your family."

The city assigns extra police crews for traffic control and to keep order if needed, but is reimbursed for the costs, the mayor said.

"There are quite a few additional safety personnel each night. They [festival organizers] make us whole," Mr. Seferian explained.

Mr. Pecsenye said the festival does not use paid workers or food concessionaires.

"One of the things we pride ourselves on is that this is an all-volunteer festival," he said. "All of the food is prepared by our folks. We'll have a crew of 120 peeling potatoes for the potato salad. That will be about 4,000 pounds of potatoes."

He declined to disclose the festival's expected receipts, but said proceeds would be used for scholarships and to help cover the $170,000 annual cost of owning and maintaining Oak Shade Grove.

-- Carl Ryan



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