German Club commemorates culture with Oktoberfest

Professor of music James Kimball leading and playing with the Geneseo String Band during German Club’s Oktoberfest celebration. The musicians led sing-a-longs of traditional German songs while attendees ate.  (izzy graziano/knights’ life editor)

German string music filled the room at this semester’s Oktoberfest party, transforming the atmosphere and creating a festive, yet educational environment. 

Members of the Geneseo German Club hosted this event in Welles Hall in honor of their German heritage on Wednesday Oct. 11. 

“We just basically want to have a celebration of German culture,” German Club co-president senior Ben Diehl said. “We really have tried to uphold a tradition that Germans have.”

Diehl coordinated the event with fellow co-president junior Ashley Miller. The e-board members spent nearly a month planning the event, which—mimicking traditional Oktoberfest customs—featured German cuisine and entertainment. 

Beyond Oktoberfest, the club presents German films, decorates gingerbread houses during the Christmas season and commemorates additional significant German events and holidays.

Oktoberfest, however, definitively distinguishes itself as the German Club’s largest event, according to German Club advisor, coordinator of the Central and Eastern European Studies minor and coordinator of the German studies minor Cynthia Klima. 

While Klima has supervised German Club for 23 years, she noted that it was the co-presidents and other e-board members who organized the event and made it a huge feat. Diehl and Miller prepared by managing the group’s public relations and promotional materials. During the celebration, they coordinated set-up and decorations, which incorporated both German heritage and Halloween themes. 

Attendees included faculty and students, as well as members of the club. In addition to German food, attractions ranged from music from the Geneseo String Band to cultural conversations. 

“I like these kinds of events because they’re close to my family and heritage,” pre-accounting major sophomore Holten Hughes said. “German Club is my home.”

Professor of music James Kimball led the Geneseo String Band, which played waltzes and traditional German string music. Players distributed lyric sheets for participants to reference during the German language sing-a-longs that intermixed with the food and discussion. 

Diehl anchored the event with a speech addressing the significance and origins of Oktoberfest. 

“This is one of the big things associated with Germany,” Diehl said. “Oktoberfest is not only one of their biggest cultural celebrations but also a big tourist attraction.”

Oktoberfest began with festivities honoring the marriage of Bavarian royalty, who included the Munich citizens in their celebration. The tradition of Oktoberfest solidified with the decision to host a similar event the following year, between late September and early October. 

Oktoberfest has evolved into an international experience that now attracts tourists and revelers from around the world, according to Diehl.

“This event is significant because it brings people together in a cultural atmosphere and provides a good learning moment, giving people a chance to get together to learn and discuss German history,” Klima said.