4 p.m. Fri.; 1 p.m. Sat.; through Oct. 23
Deutsches Haus, 200 S. Galvez St., 522-8014; www.deutscheshaus.org
Oktoberfest at Deutsches Haus has become something more than a celebration of German culture and tradition. For many, the food, the oompah band sounds, even the goofy ritual of the "chicken dance" that accompany this monthlong party have become rites of autumn in New Orleans. But change is afoot.
A nonprofit German heritage club, Deutsches Haus has been part of the city's cultural fabric since 1928. Its historic clubhouse was severely damaged by the floods after the levee failures, and club members managed to rebuild it in time to celebrate Oktoberfest in 2006. Unfortunately, the stout brick building sits squarely within the footprint planned for the new LSU/VA medical center, and that means it's slated for demolition.
"This will be the last Oktoberfest at this address," says club president Keith Oldendorf. "We thought last year would be, but now we have a firm move-out date in the first week of November, so this is it."
Club leaders expect record crowds as Oktoberfest continues each Friday and Saturday through Oct. 23, and they've taken steps to make room for them. One wall of the beer garden has been demolished already, enabling the party to spill out to the lanes of South Galvez Street, which is closed to traffic during Oktoberfest for the first time this year.
As always, food will be front and center at the family-oriented celebration, starting with about two tons of Bavarian-style sausage the club stockpiled for this year's festival. Deutsches Haus members also cook massive loads of such German delicacies as wienerschnitzel, sauerbraten and rouladen, the thin-pounded beef rolled around pickles and onions.
All this is washed down by dozens of different German beers served from taps at makeshift bars arrayed around the grounds. This year Deutsches Haus will hold one keg in special reserve, and club members plan to tap it just before midnight on Oct. 23 to mark the last day of the very last Oktoberfest at their original home.
Oldendorf says the club has leased an American Legion hall in Metairie to keep its members together through the coming year, and he says the club plans to hold Oktoberfest 2011 at a different off-site venue, still to be determined. The club will try to build a new, permanent Deutsches Haus again in the city itself, he says. Club members plan to haul away as much material as possible from the historic clubhouse before it meets the wrecking ball and work these pieces of the past into their new location.
But for the next few weeks at least, the focus on South Galvez Street will be food, drink, music and, of course, that happy spectacle of people of all ages dancing like chickens.