Lou Shindledecker checks the grill to see if it's time to put on the bratwurst he hopes to sell to visitors.
For German beer fans, it's a great time to be in northwest Ohio.
Organizers of this weekend's 42nd annual German-American Festival in Oregon have stocked their coolers and taps with 24 varieties of German beer.
That's six times as many types of beer as last year, and enough to spark excitement from a true German native.
"Twenty-four! Wow! I need to try every single one of them, if possible," said Bernd Fehrenbach in thick accent.
The 35-year-old hails from village of Schonach, and is the fifth-generation cuckoo clock maker in his family.
Workers scurry around in carts, making sure all of the booths are fully stocked to serve visitors at the German-American Festival at Oak Shade Grove in Oregon.
"We handcraft them in Germany and ship them over by boat and do festivals like this" said Mr. Fehrenbach, who commented on what he considered the festival's authentic atmosphere.
"It reminds me very much of German festivals in Germany."
According to festival chairman Tim Pecsenye, the reasoning behind expanding this year's beer selection was straightforward:
"We felt that as a German-American festival, we should have a larger variety of German beer," said Mr. Pecsenye, who believes that now, "We're probably the [German] festival with the greatest number of beers."
Yet those considering Mr. Fehrenbach's approach to beer sampling are warned that it may leave their stomachs too full for the festival's fried sauerkraut balls, bratwurst, German potato salad, veal loaf, potato pancakes, and other treats.
Art Brown, 50, who is working the taps at the festival's Biergarten, said many German beers, such as doppleboch, are tasty and notoriously filling.
Abbey Hodulik, hangs balloons in the Biergarten as workers hurried to make sure everything was ready for the opening of the festival last night. Organizers have stocked the bier stubes with 24 varieties of beer.
"It's either eat a bratwurst or have a doppleboch," he said.
Mr. Brown and his wife, Lucille, were busy yesterday afternoon stocking their beer stand in preparation for the nearly 35,000 visitors for which the organizers are hoping.
The three-day cultural festival kicked off last night and runs through tomorrow at Oak Shade Grove, 3624 Seaman St.. Admission is $5 today and $3 tomorrow.
Mr. Brown's stand boasts 10 varieties of German beer on tap and five in bottles, and names that include Franziskaner Weissbier, Hacker Pschorr, and Spaten Pils.
Last year, he sold only two types of German beer.
"I lived in Germany for three years, so I've tried all these beers and more," said Mr. Brown, a native of Point Place who now lives in Maryland.
The festival is put on by a volunteer staff of about 3,000 people. Some volunteers like Mr. Brown no longer live in northwest Ohio, but return home each year, joining family members and friends, to help.
Brett Foreman, 34, now of Columbus, has been coming to the festival since childhood and began volunteering at age 10, when he helped serve soft drinks. Standing in the shade of a tent yesterday, Mr. Foreman and four other men worked to shuck the roughly 6,000 ears of corn they expect to sell.
"We shuck them here, then we cook them here, and disperse them through the entire place," he said.
The quantity of German food and beverages that have been consumed during past years' festivals has been staggering.
Organizers estimate that each year they go through 10,000 bratwursts, two tons of potato salad, 350 gallons of sauerkraut, 50 cases of German wines, and 950 barrels and cases of beer.
Those still aiming to sample all of the festival's beers have an additional day to do so; the festival has extended liquor sales this year to Sunday.
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