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Annual festival is back this weekend

By CJ HADDAD - | Oct 21, 2021

After a year off due to the pandemic, it’s that time of year once again when Cape Coral’s ode to the largest beer and funfair festival in the world takes place for two weekends of jubilation: Oktoberfest.

The best way to describe the feeling that captures the essence of Oktoberfest is gemutlichkeit, a German word that conveys the feeling warmth, friendliness and good cheer.

There will be an abundance of gemutlichkeit this weekend and next, as the German American Social Club of Cape Coral puts on the 36th annual Oktoberfest, a celebration of German culture attracting tens of thousands of guests with an authentic German experience here in Southwest Florida.

“It means everything,” said GASC President Stephen Bauer of being able to return Oktoberfest to the area. “We’ve taken great precautions here at the club, and it’s better to be able to have the community here on such a large scale. It gets us back to normal.”

Cape Coral Mayor John Gunter will perform the official duty of tapping the keg and proclaiming Oktoberfest season to be officially open on Friday, Oct. 22 at 8 p.m.

The German American Social Club will be transformed into the festival-like atmosphere of Munich, where beers will be poured in abundance, copious amounts of food consumed and music and dancing late into the evening.

There will be 12, yes, 12 beers imported from Germany available — the most the club has brought to Oktoberfest in their history, including Hofbräuhaus, Warsteiner and Rodenberger.

“Just some rare German beers that you won’t get on tap anywhere else,” Bauer said.

Traditional German cuisine such as bratwurst, bauernwurst, German potato salad, sauerkraut, pretzels, potato pancakes, schnitzel and sauerbraten will be served, along with much more from vendors on site.

Music is at the heart of each year’s Oktoberfest, and there will be three different areas to enjoy authentic German tunes throughout the entirety of the event.

While the pandemic still poses travel restrictions from Germany, the GASC still secured plenty of great live music. This year’s line-up features the Europa Band, Die Lustigen Almdudler, GASC’s very own Hafenkapelle, Manni Daum and Peter D. Also featured are local favorites the Hot Buttered Nuggets, The Boots, and Deb & The Dynamics. Attendees are sure to be treated to non-stop foot-tapping music in the tent, the gardens, and inside in the Edelweiss Hall — something for every ear. And if you don’t know the steps to traditional German dance? The popular chicken dance usually gets everyone on the dance floor.

“Once I see (people dancing), that’s when I know we’ve fully recovered,” Bauer said.

While there was not a Ms. Oktoberfest 2021 crowned this year due to the pandemic, past Ms. Oktoberfest winners will serve as ambassadors for the event and will be seen throughout both weekends in a variety of roles.

“We’ve brought back alumni, and they will all be at Oktoberfest wearing their crown and sash, and doing the outreach to the public,” Bauer said.

The GASC will be encouraging attendees to safeguard their health as well as the health of others by wearing a mask in crowded spaces and practicing good personal hygiene. There will be additional washing stations and hand sanitizer on site.

“We’ve got two large outdoor venues and for people who don’t want to be in close proximity to others and want to spread out, we’ve got all of these places to spread out to,” Bauer said. “We’ve got the space and music at every venue.”

Other activities offered at Oktoberfest include carnival rides and games, arts and crafts, beer steins, T-shirts, hats, prize drawings and a 2-acre Bavarian Biergarten.

Oktoberfest also allows the club to make donations to local charities, which they will disperse in December.

Free satellite parking will be available at 1448 Ceitus Terrace, just North of Aldi at Chiquita and Pine Island Road. Shuttle buses will run continuously from 6 p.m. until midnight. Promotions are also in place for Uber or Lyft rides.

Full dates for Oktoberfest are Oct. 22, 23,24 and 29, 30, 31. Opening hours are on both Fridays from 4 p.m. to midnight, Saturdays from noon until midnight and Sundays from noon until 8 p.m.

Advance tickets to the event are $6 and can be purchased at The German American Social Club, Trebling Tile, the European American Bakery in Fort Myers, and Geier’s Sausage Kitchen in Sarasota. You may also purchase tickets at the gate for $8. Children 12 and under are admitted free and all event dates are rain-or-shine.

The German American Social Club is at 2101 SW Pine Island Road in Cape Coral. For more information, visit www.CapeCoralOktoberfest.com.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj