Minster celebrates German heritage with 42nd annual Oktoberfest

Minster celebrates German heritage with 42nd annual Oktoberfest

Minster celebrates German heritage with 42nd annual Oktoberfest

By Amy Eddings

Adults and children alike enjoy dancing to the German polka band Sorgenbrecher at the gazebo during a recent Oktoberfest.

Jay Roellgen, of Tupelo, Mississip, sat in a chair four hours to have his beard dyed the colors of the German flag during a recent Oktoberfest. Roellgen brought his mom, Dorothy Roellgen, with him so she could visit with family that still lives in the Minster area.

From left, Daryn Straley, of Athens, Ryan Loyd, of Lafayette, Indiana, and Kathy Straley drink beer and take a break from the chilly weather during a recent Oktoberfest.

Minster’s annual Oktoberfest is a tourist attraction for many, with visitors traveling from across Ohio and from neighboring Indiana and Michigan for the beer, the bratwursts and the traditional oom-pah music. For Minsterites, it’s a big, public reunion.

“It’s a homecoming for families,” said Mary Oldiges, who runs the Minster Historical Society and whose husband, Gary, helped found the event in 1975.

Oldiges, 69, was sitting at her desk at the historical society at 112 W. Fourth St. Above her, resting on top of a wooden card catalog, were framed photos of the Woehrmyers, her father’s clan. She’s also related to the Ritters, the Bergmans and the Kovermans. The Mass cards from many of these relatives’ funerals in this deeply Roman Catholic community are among the 25,000 that fill the catalog.

“Today, including our grandchildren, who reside in Minster, and our sons, we are seventh generation Minsterites,” she said. This little rural town of 2,829, she said, “feels like home.”

Minster was originally known as Stallostown, the brainchild of Franz Joseph Stallo, a native of Damme, a village in Lower Saxony in the northwest of Germany. Stallo was smitten with America. A schoolteacher, bookbinder and printer, he circulated a poem extolling the new country’s freedoms and beauties throughout the provinces of Oldenburg and Hannover.

He followed his own advice, immigrating with his family to America in 1830. He settled in Cincinnati and began scouting for farmland along the Miami-Erie Canal, a waterway that was finished in 1845 and unlocked Ohio’s northwestern interior from Cincinnati to Toledo. Pooling resources with other immigrants, he formed a stock company and bought 1,200 acres of former swampland that had been ceded to the United States by Native Americans nearly 40 years earlier under the Treaty of Greenville.

His enthusiasm did not wane with the realities of what was then frontier life. He continued his public relations campaign for Ohio and America.

“He sent letters telling them, ‘Come! It’s the land of milk and honey!’” said Oldiges. “And they came!”

She said it was one of the largest chain migrations in U.S. history, with families who had immigrated helping, in turn, their siblings, cousins, parents, grandparents and neighbors make the journey and find their footing.

“By the time it was done, in the 1860s-70s, a lot of these little communities in Germany, half of them were gone, they had immigrated,” said Oldiges. “They brought their neighbors, their brothers, their sisters, their nieces, their nephews. And wasn’t that a great idea because, with all of that, perhaps they weren’t as homesick.”

She praised that community spirit of kinship and mutual support that brought not only Minster into being, but raised up, out of the Ohio wilderness, the German-American towns of New Bremen, New Knoxville and Maria Stein.

“I firmly believe that’s why these little communities were so successful,” she said. “You bring enough people with you who know you and love you and share your interests and likes and similarities. That’s how they survived. They all knew each other, they were all willing to help.”

They brought their language, Low German, a combination of German and Dutch. They brought their customs, which Oldiges said included a strong work ethic and an emphasis on order and neatness.

“We get a lotta visitors from out of town, they say, ‘My God, what a clean little town!’” she said.

They brought their culture. The Minster Historical Society’s glass cases are filled with hand-carved wooden shoes and images of the humble farmer’s footwear dot the interior of The Wooden Shoe Inn, the 83-year-old restaurant at the center of town at Fourth and Main streets. Floats in the Oktoberfest’s annual Sunday parade carry windmills and celebrants dressed in traditional dirndls, lacy aprons, knee-length bundhosen slacks and felt hats.

Those early Minsterites brought their food, of course, including pretzels, cabbage rolls, wursts, spatzel, kuchen and strudel. Many of these traditional foods are sold at the Oktoberfest by the three dozen community groups that participate in, and benefit from, the festival. The 40th annual Oktoberfest in 2014 netted nearly $1 million, said Oldiges.

And they brought beer, the beverage that has defined Oktoberfest since the first one in 1810 in the southern German city of Munich to celebrate the marriage of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildberghausen. Two small breweries were in operation by 1869, and one of them, the Star Brewing Co., later known as the Wooden Shoe Brewing Co., lasted until 1953. A recent attempt to relaunch the Wooden Shoe brewery failed in 2012.

No matter. There will be plenty of beer on tap at the Oktoberfest, including major brands like Budweiser and Samuel Adams, as well as smaller craft brews.

But the food, the floats, the beer tray relay race and the mug hoisting contest, the tuba and accordion-flavored oom-pah music, is not what makes Oktoberfest a special time for lifelong Minsterite Oldiges. It’s the way the community pools its talents and resources to host it, year after year. It’s the way families reconvene around it.

“If you don’t know where you came from, how are you going to know where you’re going?” she said. “It’s so important to go back and reflect and say, ‘Hey, they figured it out. They did it and they worked together and they succeeded.’ In today’s society, you still have to basically do it the same way, if you want to get it accomplished.”

A few recipes from “Minster’s Heart & Heritage Cookbook:”

GERMAN SAUERBRATEN (PICKLED BEEF POT ROAST)

Start to finish: 53 hours (1 1/2 hours active)

Servings: 14

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

One 4-pound top round roast

2 1/2 cups water

2 cups apple cider vinegar

2 medium onions, sliced

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons pickling spice

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

8 whole cloves

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

14 gingersnap cookies, crushed

Directions:

Combine salt and ginger; rub over roast. Place the roast in a deep glass bowl. In a saucepan, combine water, vinegar, onions, sugar, pickling spices, peppercorns, cloves and bay leaves; bring to a boil. Pour over roast; turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2 days, turning twice a day.

Remove roast, reserving marinade. Pat roast dry.

In a large kettle or Dutch oven, brown roast on all sides in oil over medium-high heat. Strain marinade, reserving half of the onions and seasonings and discarding the rest. Pour 1 cup of the marinade and reserved onions and seasonings over roast (cover and refrigerate remaining marinade liquid). Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 3 hours or until meat is tender.

Strain cooking liquid, discarding the onions and seasonings. Measure liquid; if necessary, add enough reserved marinade to equal 3 cups. Pour into a saucepan; bring to a rolling boil. Add gingersnaps; simmer until gravy is thickened. Slice roast and serve with gravy.

[Adapted from a recipe from Ronnie (Brennan) Raible.]

POTATO DUMPLINGS

Start to finish: 4 hours (2 hours active)

Servings: 10

Ingredients:

3 pounds russet potatoes

2 eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour, divided

1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Dash pepper

Minced fresh parsley for garnish

Directions:

Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes or until tender. Drain well. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Peel and grate the cooked and cooled potatoes. In a bowl, combine the eggs, 3/4 cup flour, bread crumbs, salt, nutmeg and pepper. Add grated potatoes; mix with hands until well-blended. Shape into 1 1/2-inch balls; roll in remaining 1/4 cup flour.

In large kettle, bring salted water to a boil. Add the dumplings, a few at a time, to boiling water. Simmer, uncovered, until the dumplings rise to the top; cook 2 minutes longer. Remove dumplings with a slotted spoon to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

[Adapted from a recipe from Ronnie (Brennan) Raible.]

GERMAN-STYLED GREEN BEANS

Start to finish: 1 hour

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces

3 bacon strips, diced

1 medium onion, quartered and sliced

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground mustard

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Directions:

Place beans in saucepan and cover with water; bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and set aside.

In a skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain, reserving 1 tablespoon of drippings in the skillet. In the same skillet, sauté onion in drippings about 5 minutes until tender.

In a small saucepan, combine the cornstarch, salt, ground mustard and water until smooth. Stir into onion mixture. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in brown sugar and vinegar. Add the beans; heat through. Sprinkle with bacon bits.

[Adapted from a recipe from Mary (Woehrmyer) Oldiges.]

CABBAGE ROLLS

Start to finish: 7 hours (1 active)

Servings: 36

Ingredients:

1 head cabbage, leaves pulled off of it

1 1/2 pounds fresh sausage

1 1/2 pounds ground chuck

3/4 cups instant white rice (uncooked)

1 medium onion, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Two 6-ounce cans tomato paste

One 15-ounce can tomato sauce

One 15-ounce can sauerkraut

Directions:

Preheat oven to 275 F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the cabbage leaves until just wilted, about 2 minutes; set aside on paper towels or in a colander to drain and cool.

In a large bowl, mix together by hand the sausage, ground chuck, rice, onion, salt and pepper. Place a cabbage leaf on a work surface and place 2 or 3 heaping tablespoons of the meat mixture into the center of each leaf; roll up into a cylinder. Place in a 9-by-11-inch glass baking dish and set aside.

In a bowl, stir together the tomato paste and tomato sauce; spoon over cabbage rolls. Add enough water to cover the rolls; top with sauerkraut. Bake for 6 hours.

[Adapted from a recipe from Mary (Woehrmyer) Oldiges.]

GERMAN OATMEAL CAKE

Start to finish: 1 1/2 hours (40 minutes active)

Serves: 12

Ingredients:

1 cup quick oats

1 cup boiling water

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter

1 1/2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

1 cup raisins

Topping Ingredients:

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar

4 tablespoons heavy cream

6 tablespoons melted butter

1 cup sweetened coconut or chopped walnuts

Cake Directions:

Preheat over to 350 F.

Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish.

In a bowl, combine the oats and boiling water; set aside for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon; set aside.

In a standing mixer, cream together brown sugar, granulated sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and mix together until incorporated. Add soaked oats. Beat in eggs and raisins. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before adding the topping.

Topping Ingredients:

For the topping, in a small bowl, stir the brown sugar, cream, butter and coconut or nuts until combined. Spread on the cooled cake; place under broiler for 5 minutes or until brown sugar begins to bubble and coconut or nuts are evenly browned.

[Adapted from a recipe from Dorothy (Boerger) Wolf.]

WAINACHSROLLEN

Start to finish: 24 hours (30 minutes active)

Makes: 24 cookies

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 sticks butter (1 cup), melted

1 cup lard, melted

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar, packed

3 eggs

8 ounces sliced almonds

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, soda, salt and cinnamon; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together butter, lard, brown sugar, granulated sugar and eggs; blend well. Stir in dry ingredients and almonds. Divide the dough in half. Roll each portion of dough into 2 logs, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter; wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper and refrigerate overnight.

Slice chilled dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. You may also use a cookie stamp, mold or press on the chilled dough. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove and place on cookie racks until cool.

[Adapted from a recipe from Ronnie (Brennan) Raible.]

The 42nd Annual Minster Oktoberfest

When: Friday, Sept. 30 – Sunday, Oct. 2

Schedule:

Friday

610 p.m. — Arts and crafts open

Saturday

10 a.m. — Little Miss Oktoberfest Contest, Knights of Columbus Hall, 40 N. Main St.

Noon — Opening ceremonites, gazebo

1 p.m. — Miss Oktoberfest Contest, Spass Platz

2 p.m. — Beer tray relays, Fourth Street

Sunday

9:30 a.m. — Oktoberfest 10K run, Minster High School start, 100 E. Seventh St.

2 p.m. — Minster Oktoberfest parade

8 p.m. — Stands close

Salt Magazine