VANDALIA — Sister Cities of Vandalia just hosted its 39th annual Oktoberfest at the Vandalia Sports Complex on September 11, 12, and 13. Since its inception in 1978, Oktoberfest has been a highlight event in the community every fall. It is the most successful fundraiser Sister Cities of Vandalia puts on each year. This year’s event featured an exciting variety of sights, sounds, and flavors reflective of the Oktoberfest in Vandalia’s European sister city: Lichtenfels, Germany.
Those who attended Oktoberfest saw numerous men clad in lederhosen and smelled the spicy, smoked fragrance of bratwurst and beer. According to Harvey Kimmel, the president of Sister Cities, Oktoberfest in Vandalia serves approximately 65 kegs of beer. Hundreds of bratwurst are grilled to perfection and 500 pounds of potatoes are used in the making of an authentic family recipe for German potato salad, a recipe offered to the cause by a member of Sister Cities.
“Our German friends tell us we get the food right,” Kimmel said. “But you can’t compare the original Oktoberfest with ours. What they do is beyond huge.” Lichtenfels draws hundreds of thousands of guests and serves approximately 6 million liters of beer at their annual celebration.
Sister Cities of Vandalia is a local non-profit that has been bringing people together across the ocean since it came to the city through the influence of Mayor Lakin in 1975. With 198 members and an active youth program, the organization raises money to host international guests or send teenagers from Vandalia to Europe. Kimmel says it’s all about the relationships. “It opens up the world to our community,” Kimmel said. “When you experience the way other people live and their traditions, foods, and culture, it changes your life. Our hope is that every teenager could have an experience like that.”
Vynesa Evanson, a junior at Vandalia Butler, just returned from a Sister Cities sponsored youth exchange in July (July 25-August 18) and helped at this year’s Oktoberfest. Her perspective was altered by the trip. “Germany really changed what I want out of life,” Evanson said. “It inspired me to get out and see new things.” Evanson has barely been home for a month and is already anticipating a return trip following graduation. Bamberg, Germany was her favorite stop; she now hopes to one day live there.
According to Evanson, Oktoberfest is strikingly reminiscent of the culture she came to love. “It’s more similar that I thought it would be,” Evanson said. “I’ve been missing Germany a lot right now.” She had barely been home for a month and already talked to her mother about a return trip following graduation. Bamberg, Germany was her favorite stop; she now hopes to one day live there.
Three high school students like Evanson are chosen each year to participate in the youth exchange program with Lichtenfels. They have the opportunity to live in the home of a German family for three weeks. For many, it is the experience of a lifetime of which Oktoberfest is just a taste.
Although the weather was overcast and cool, the community came out by the hundreds to enjoy the food, fun, and family atmosphere at Oktoberfest and support Sister Cities’ many causes. The Vandalia Butler athletic department is among the groups that receive contributions from Sister Cities. As a result, the football team comes out every year to help the steering committee set up. This year’s dedicated steering committee included, Liz Kunz (chairperson), Wayne Wright, Brenda Windel, Bob and Tracy Schaffner, Kristin Cox, Mary Blakesly, Sara Lambdin, Ann Kimmel, Jeff Jordan, Rick Schieltz, and Mike and Kelly Blakesly.
The committee and community’s tremendous effort, time, and commitment not only resulted in another exciting year at Oktoberfest but brought Lichtenfels, Germany and Vandalia, Ohio together once again in celebration of fall, family, and friendship.
Reach Brittany Arlene Jackson at 684-8983.