Max Eggerl was celebrating for two reasons Sunday.
Blob's Park, the Bavarian beer and dance hall his family has owned and operated in Jessup for more than eight decades, was closing — for good this time, after temporarily shutting its doors between 2007 and 2009.
And on the afternoon of the hall's last night, the 68-year-old, longtime bachelor married his fiance. The polka dancing throngs who patronize the hall every weekend joined the reception around 4:30 p.m., and the party continued well into the night.
"That's the way we do it," Eggerl said. "We were going to get married in May. When we realized this would be the last day [for Blob's Park], we moved it up."
Eggerl's great-uncle and namesake, Max Blob, opened the hall in 1933, when he built a bowling alley in a small building at his farm, just off Route 175. Blob's bratwurst and bowling alley — along with his bootlegged pear brandy, Eggerl said — became a hit with families of German and other European immigrants.
In 1976, the family renovated the giant hall to accommodate more than 500 people during Oktoberfest, its busiest time of the year.
Max Blob eventually turned the operation over to his sister, Eggerl's mother, who ran it with Eggerl's brother, John, for several years. When John Eggerl tired of it in the early 2000s, Max Eggerl sold his electrical business and put up more than $300,000 to renovate the building and reopen it in 2009.
Now, pegged for demolition by the landowner to make way for new development, Eggerl called the renovation "the worst business decision of my life. But I'd do it all over again."
Blob's Park holds memories for Bonnie Thomson and her family, and many others who have been going to eat and dance for generations.
Thomson's parents brought her to Blob's in their black, 1954 Hudson Hornet since she was 4. Sixty years later, Thomson lives in Richmond, Va., and while she doesn't attend the weekly festivities, three generations of her family still visit for special occasions like her parents' anniversary.
"It feels like it hasn't changed," Thomson said, looking out onto a group doing the chicken dance on the same floor she ran around on as a child. "The tradition continues."
An open-heart surgery and a pacemaker didn't stop Thomson's parents, in their late 80s, from dancing to their favorite song, the "Blue Skirt Waltz," Sunday night.
One table over, it was Kassandra Ventrudo's 14th birthday, and her 5-month-old sister Mia's first time at Blob's.
Their mother, Katie, seemed disappointed it would also be their last.
"Just about every one of us has had a birthday party here," she said to Kassandra, gesturing around at their extended family. "You're turning 14; it's the last day."
Eggerl has already rented out the Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore for this year's Oktoberfest celebration. But it won't be quite the same.
"It's been a good run," Eggerl said. "Eighty-one years. This will be leaving a hole in a lot of people's lives."
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