By Margaret Morton
This weekend, Loudoun will celebrate the German traditions of the county’s northernmost town—Lovettsville. Beginning on Friday evening and continuing through Saturday and Sunday morning, the town is expected to host more than 10,000 visitors who will enjoy an abundance of German food, beer, dance and music.
The 2018 celebration will feature the scores of vendors and traditional German music, dance, food and lots of flowing beer that have made the event a highlight of Loudoun’s fall festival season—but look for a somewhat different twist.
“We’re really going to be focusing on the history,” said Town Councilman Jim McIntyre.
What began 25 years ago had its roots in a September Fest, the traditional German celebration of giving thanks after the harvest, that was part of the planning for the national bicentennial celebration starting in 1974. Former Mayor Elaine Walker has lent her long knowledge of the town to this year’s event, serving as the official historian of the festival.
That first event did not continue, but over the years Walker continued to urge her fellow town leaders to hold some kind of celebration of the town’s founding by a band of 60 German farmers who moved south in 1732 in search of good land.
“We were known as the German Settlement,” Walker said. After discussing the idea for a year, in 1994 the council authorized first “Oktoberfest,” and has not looked back since.
From small beginnings, the event has grown in size and popularity each year.
“Back then, we had a small tent back of the town office, and the owner allowed us to use his field for a few vendors,” Walker recalled. The allotted budget for the free event was $1,000. It costs a lot more to stage today, but the event is still free to attend—a source of pride to Walker and McIntyre.
The first five years were modest, but by 2000 the event took on a larger presence, with new ideas and committee members coming on board. Word spread and the area’s German community responded—contributing to today’s signature character featuring colorfully dressed Bavarian dancers performing polkas and waltzes. The Washington Saengerbund, one of the oldest German-American choral societies in the U.S., provided enthusiastic support, prompting the town to add a large tent with dance floor and stage that now serves as the center piece of the festival.
The event starts on the Friday night, with the Lions Club dinner at the Lovettsville Community Center. One of the highlights of the first evening is the opening of the beer taps at the Beirgarten on Pennsylvania Avenue. Food trucks will be offering authentic German food, while the Lovettsville Game Club will offer a variety of home cooked specialties. The night’s entertainment ends with music by Ghost Pepper and the town’s popular annual effort to break a world record with the crowd joining the singalong with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody at 9:30.
Saturday is the big day, when the town is filled with vendors, dancers and musicians. Festivities formally kick off with the traditional keg tapping and opening ceremony at noon at the Biergarten on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Two favorite performing groups follow, featuring the Alte Kameraden, performing traditional Bavarian music; and the Alpine Dancers, who will give a traditional Bavarian dance exhibition, along with instruction for those willing to try their skill. Live music—The Reagan Years—follows from 6-10 p.m. For the hale and hearty, the Stein-Hauling/Hoisting Competitions will begin at 8:30 p.m.
Over at the Walker Pavilion on the Town Green, the year’s King and Queen will lead the chicken dance, following a variety of live music throughout the day. The lineup includes Jason Masi, Juliana MacDowell, McCoy, Don Annonio, and Teddy Chipouras.
Saturday also features the popular dachshundraces at 2 and 5 p.m. in a special stadium near Town Hall.
There’s also a separate Kinderfest area for tots to teens to enjoy free carnival games, inflatable rides, climbing wall, pony rides, face-painting and interactive sports activities.
And town restaurants and pubs will be offering a variety of foods to tempt all appetites.
Parking is available in the designated lots and there is continuous free trolley service to take festivalgoers to and from their cars.
“I’m excited to watch the town’s growth, the celebration of the community that’s grown so much bigger—passing the word by horse’s mouth—so that people can still enjoy the activities of a small rural community,” McIntyre said.
See more information at lovettsvilleoktoberfest.com.