Fun, family atmosphere attracts community members to Oktoberfest
October 12, 2012
German food and beverages, entertainment, carnival rides and drawings should be enough to bring people to an Oktoberfest celebration, right? It is, but add a fun, family atmosphere and you have Oktoberfest 2012 at Fort Belvoir.
Belvoir's Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation hosted the annual Oktoberfest celebration Thursday through Sunday at Freemont Field.
The Family atmosphere and safe environment is one reason military Families and members of the Fairfax County community decided to come.
"I thought it would be a good event to bring my Family to since they've never experienced Oktoberfest before," said Staff Sgt. Zach Robertson, Headquarters and Headquarters Company 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Division. "This is a very kid friendly event, which I really appreciate because I have young kids."
The Family friendly atmosphere appealed to more than Families with young children. Glenn Gearhard is a retired Marine who lives in Fairfax County. Gearhard and his wife, Karin, have come to Oktoberfest for more than 10 years because of the Family atmosphere and the opportunity to talk to and meet other people.
He likes Belvoir's Oktoberfest because of its authenticity.
"What makes Fort Belvoir the best Oktoberfest is they bring in the carnival rides," said Gearhard. "Oktoberfest in Germany is a county fair kind of thing. There's spinning rides, carnival games and food. It's a three generation family affair, the children, their parents and their grandparents."
The carnival rides, food and German beverages are not the only activities people enjoy at Oktoberfest. Laura Phillips of Colyer Village had fun participating in a drawing in which she won a gift card to Starbucks. She plans on using the card to get a pumpkin spice latte.
"The pumpkin spice latte just came back in season, so that is exactly what the gift card is for," said Phillips. "I haven't been to Starbucks in six months, so I'm looking forward to going again because it's a treat for me."
Phillips said she likes that Oktoberfest isn't expensive, so she and her Family can come have fun and not spend much money. She also likes that it is open to the public because it gives her an opportunity to learn about the local community.
"It gives the event more of an intermingling set up," said Phillips. "It also lets us know about other opportunities in the local community because vendors come out and show what they have to offer. It gets their business out to us, and they get to talk to us and get to know us better."
Servicemembers and civilians weren't the only one's having fun over the weekend. Harold Baker, Jolly Shows vendor, sat at a table outside the main tent shooting a bubble gun and wearing a joker hat. Baker wanted to entice kids to buy a bubble gun.
"I just try to make them laugh and play around," said Baker who had several groups of kids jumping and swatting at the bubbles. "I like the people that are stationed here and live in this community. It's a fun, festive atmosphere."
Baker has been coming to Oktoberfest with Jolly Shows for 10 years. Along with the atmosphere, his appreciation for the Soldiers is one reason why he continues to come back.
"You've got to appreciate what these guys are doing for us," said Baker. "If you don't, you're not an American, in my opinion."
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Alex Morris, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, also likes that Oktoberfest is open to the local community because it gives them a chance to spend time with the servicemembers who attend the event.
"I think it makes the local community and the military community feels like one group," said Morris. "It allows both groups to have fun together."
One community member who enjoyed mingling with the servicemembers is Ray Hewlitt. Hewlitt lives in Washington, D.C., and learned of Oktoberfest through a co-worker on post.
"I think its good the installation opens up for the local community to come to Oktoberfest," said Hewlitt. "You get to spend time with the Soldiers and show your appreciation for everything they do."
Hewlitt said the event reached his expectations and he can see why so many Families come to the event.
"I like the atmosphere; you can come and have a few German beverages and some food and just relax," said Hewlitt. "I don't have any Family, but there are a lot of kids here, so you can see it's a good event for Families to bring their kids to."