COLE CAMP — At Cole Camp’s 12th annual Oktoberfest on Saturday, the crowd milling about on Maple Street could pick up plenty of German vocabulary, from the maypole-like structure (festbaum) raised to mark the festivities to the mixed choir (Gemischter Chor) singing at the Jaycee Gardens.
But the rain (der regen) was the main word on the minds of many, including Neil Heimsoth and the rest of the Gemischter Chor, also known as the Cole Camp German Singers. As the first drops of rain began to fall, they finished a light-hearted musical tribute to Schnapps with their songbooks over their heads and rushed to get the group’s piano under cover in the Jaycee Gardens.
“It’s a pretty good crowd,” Heimsoth said. He remarked that there had been plenty of festival-goers present for the raising of the festbaum, and explained that over the years, Oktoberfest officials had dealt with every kind of weather.
“That’s the way it goes,” he said.
Sharon and Charlie Kavanaugh, vendors of Granny’s Ole Fashioned Kettle Korn, also were enduring the rain with a smile.
“We’re sad it rained, but we still have a good following here,” Charlie said, adding that he enjoyed coming to Cole Camp because he got the opportunity to see customers come back to his stand year after year.
“The people are so nice and friendly,” he said. “It’s just a family-oriented fair.”
Oktoberfest patrons who braved the threatening weather could enjoy all kinds of German and old-time themed entertainment, including a bicycle tour of historic Cole Camp, a gun show, antique farm machinery displays and traditional German food and beer. The festival’s efforts at authenticity floored Ina Markgraf-Lehmann, who was visiting Kansas and Missouri on vacation from the Wittenberg area of Germany.
“It’s crazy to stay here and listen to German music,” said Lehmann, who said she was thinking about moving to the Midwest with her family. “I’m glad that people enjoy this and try to live a little bit like Germany.”
Lehmann smiled and wavered a bit when asked about the authenticity of the German food available at the Cole Camp Oktoberfest, but said she was heartened to see people coming out to get in touch with their heritage.
“You can live in another country and forget your past,” she said. “This is what I like.”