Aberdeen Proving Ground is opening its gates to the public for four days this week to celebrate Oktoberfest in an effort to reach out to its local community and share "Hooah with oompah!"
APG's Oktoberfest, to be held at the Aberdeen Area's Shine Sports Field, is a local version of the famous fall festival held each year in Munich, Germany, and is focused on German food, music and kids activities.
"The idea is about community and our commanding general, he's a well-traveled man who spent time in Europe," Kelly Luster, strategic communications officer for CECOM Public and Media Communications, said Monday. "The idea behind it, in Germany Oktoberfest is really about community and that's a way to say thank you to the community around APG."
From Thursday to Sunday, the post will be hosting a four-day carnival-type event featuring German food and beverages, a Volksmarch or "Peoples" march, which is a form of non-competitive fitness walking, Festhalle or "festival hall" music, carnival rides, a car show, a craft show, a kids corner and fireworks presented by Zambelli Fireworks on Friday and Saturday nights at 9 p.m.
Oktoberfest will begin Thursday, Sept. 27, from 4 to 10 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 28, from 4 to 11 p.m. with fireworks at 9 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. with fireworks at 9 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 30, from noon to 6 p.m.
What Oktoberfest would be complete without traditional German food and beer? Prost restaurant in Port Deposit will be providing bratwurst (regular and spicy), warm German potato salad, homemade sauerkraut, pork coming off a pig cooked on-site and German pretzels.
Paulaner Oktoberfest and Twin Lakes Oktoberfest brews will be available, as will other beers and wines, including some German reds and whites.
Other food will be available, including chicken sandwiches, cheese steaks, French fries, burgers – typical carnival-style food.
Oktoberfest will have something for everybody, Luster said, and best of all is it's all free (except the food and beverages).
The APG Oktoberfest German Costume Contest will be held all four days, with prizes for best adults and children's costumes. The parade begins at the Festhalle at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, at 1 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Saturday will feature an Oktoberfest yard sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a car show from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
One of the highlights of Oktoberfest will be the Volksmarch, a 10K walk, on Sunday, Sept. 30, from 8 a.m. to noon.
"In Germany, the Volksmarch is more of a social event than a competition. People dress in Lederhosen, march a course and talk. It's more about fellowship," Luster said.
Honoring the community
During the event, Cecil County and each municipality in Harford will be featured on its own day, with APG thanking each for its unwavering support over the past 95 years and continued support as the installation continues to evolve.
Aberdeen will help kick off the four-day event with a formal ceremony Sept. 27, with the mayor helping the county executive with the ceremonial tapping of the first keg. Aberdeen government is working with the police department, chamber of commerce and Ripken Baseball "to showcase the city a little bit," Aberdeen City Manager Doug Miller said at a meeting last week.
The Town of Bel Air will be honored on Friday, Sept. 28, Town Administrator Chris Schlehr told commissioners at their meeting last week.
"They are honoring the entire Town of Bel Air and want everybody to attend," Schlehr said, explaining an actual ceremony will be held between 6 and 6:30 p.m. during the event, which runs from 4 to 11 p.m.
Havre de Grace will be recognized Saturday, Sept. 29, and the Salute to Cecil County will be Sunday, Sept. 30.
Thanks to the community
Aberdeen has been part of the APG community for nearly 100 years. The installation continues to evolve. With BRAC completed, there's a lot of evolution here. It's just one of the ways APG wants to say thank you to the community," Luster said.
Post leaders want to "take down that wall, that veil of uncertainty, and tell people to come on the installation. We want to show them APG is not just located here, we're part of your community. We go to the same schools, the same churches."
When key leaders moved to Aberdeen, they felt the community opened its arms and accepted everybody, Luster said.
"It was amazing how welcoming the community was," he said. "Events like this not only provide support for the community, it also goes back to the installation and ultimately to the warfighters."
Extra steps will be made to make APG more accessible during the event, Miller said.
Anyone with a standard ID, military or driver's license, will be able to show it at the gate and will be admitted on post.
More information may also be obtained at http://www.apgmwr.com/oktoberfest.html or http://www.facebook.com/APGmd.