Natives of Germany enjoy Oktoberfest in downtown Aiken

September 30, 2018

Drinking beer and wearing a pair of the traditional Bavarian leather breeches known as lederhosen, Hans Lutz was celebrating Oktoberfest in downtown Aiken on Saturday night.

The native of Germany has been to the granddaddy of all Oktoberfest festivals, which is held in Munich.

“It’s wild, it’s very crowded and it’s very expensive, too,” Lutz said. “There is nothing that compares to it.”

But Lutz also enjoys the Aiken version Oktoberfest. He was spending the evening on Newberry Street with his friends.

Many of them were from his homeland.

“They try the best they can with Oktoberfest here, and I think it’s getting better every year,” Lutz said. “I remember the first year when they didn’t have any German beer. But last year they had a lot of German beer, and they have a lot again this year. Now they need more German food.”

Lutz is a retired electrical engineer who used to work at Plant Vogtle in Georgia.

“I had a sister over here in Wagener, and I fell in love with the area,” he said. “Then, in 2005, I decided to fulfill my dream for my job, so I moved Aiken.”

Lutz’s group included Heidi Chavious, who was celebrating her 71st birthday.

“I was born in Frankfurt, Germany,” she said. “My mother married a soldier and he adopted me, so we came over here when I was only 8 years old. But I still speak fluent German.”

A substitute teacher who used to work full-time at Wagener-Salley High School before retiring, Chavious had planned to wear a dirndl, which is a traditional Bavarian dress, to Oktoberfest. But she said she changed her mind “because I didn’t know what the weather would be like.”

It rained during the afternoon, but by the time Oktoberfest started at 6 p.m., skies were clearing and the sun was shining.

“The weather was a little bit iffy, and it was a little hard to monitor the radar,” said Haley Knight, executive director of the Aiken Downtown Development Association. “But luckily, everything was in our favor, and it looks like we are rain-free, so we are very excited about that. We had a couple of questionable moments earlier, but we knew a lot of people in the community really wanted to come to Oktoberfest, so we decided to go on with it.”

Knight’s organization and USC Aiken are the organizers of Oktoberfest, and this year’s edition was Aiken’s sixth.

Along with beer, there was music by the Foothills Oompah Band. The food options included sauerbraten, braised red cabbage and pretzels.

Some members of Lutz and Chavious’ group brought German fare that they had prepared.

While sitting together at a table, the friends munched on sandwiches made out of pan-fried meat patties (frikadellen) and German hard rolls (Brotchen).

“We’ve also got sauerkraut with sausages and kraut salad,” said Ursula Campbell, who was born in Germany and has lived in North Augusta since 1974.

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