Happy Oktoberfest season!

Yes, it’s OK to wish that in September; this traditional German celebration ramps up in advance of October.

“It’s an ushering in of October,” says Franklin Dohanyos, event chairman for the Oktoberfest at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church in Birmingham.

More importantly, it’s “a fun party time of year,” says Keith Woloszwk of Dearborn Brand East Side Retail, a division of Dearborn Sausage Company that provides traditional German sausages for several Oktoberfest celebrations in the area.

“We enjoy the music, the food and the beer,” Woloszwk says.

Oktoberfest, of course, is not just a Metro Detroit thing. It started more than 200 years ago as a small marriage celebration for German royalty, became a festival to welcome the fall harvest and then grew into an international affair. The official (and beer-tent laden) Oktoberfest in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, kicks off Saturday and runs through Oct. 5, and other versions take place all over the world.

Our Shepherd’s Oktoberfest, which celebrates its 10th year this weekend, has been church member Dohanyos’ pet project since its beginning.

“I want to say it’s one of the best because even though during the day we have other entertainment, we stick to the traditions,” Dohanyos says.

Those traditions include a German dance performance by the Ann Arbor Bavarian Park Dancers, music by Eric Neubauer’s Die Dorfmusikanten Orchestra and, oh yes, the “Schnitzelbank” song. For the uninitiated, that’s “a hilarious German folk song sung all over the world,” Dohanyos says.

“We hand out song sheets and everybody sings along,” he explains. “As it gets longer, it gets louder. And as corny as it is, it’s like the chicken dance — you can’t help but tap your toes and sing. It’s just impossible not to.”

The song happens during the prime-time — about 5-9 p.m. Saturday — of the two-day event, which also features lots of traditional German food and drink. Snack fare like pickles, pretzels and root beer will be available, or for about $8, Dohanyos says, you can get a complete meal like a bratwurst, a knackwurst or three pierogis with sauerkraut, German potato salad and red cabbage. You can add pop to the meal for a buck, get a $5 16-ounce domestic beer, or — if you really want to go traditional — the festival features popular German beers, including Warsteiner, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr. Prices run $6 for 16-ounce German beer from the tap or $13 for a 22-ounce Triple Bock in a bottle. There will also be wine for $5.

German entertainment, food and booze may be highlights, but Our Shepherd’s Oktoberfest is particularly family-friendly too.

“It’s not like a mom and dad go out and party and leave the kids at home thing,” says Woloszwk, who has attended the event for years with his family. “It’s something where you’d want to bring your kids along and let them enjoy.”

Fun activities for the kids include G-rated movies under the stars or in the gym if it rains (at dusk Friday and Saturday), a petting zoo (3-5 p.m. Saturday), a balloon artist (4-7 p.m. Saturday), bounce houses and carnival games such as ring and bean tosses throughout the festival, all included in the $5 admission. Kids 2 and younger get in free.

“It’s a great little family affair,” Woloszwk says.

For Dohanyos — a public relations man by trade for whom Our Shepherd’s Oktoberfest is a pro bono labor of love — it represents a decade of good times.

“My favorite part is taking mental snapshots when the tent is completely full,” he says. “I like to just go off in a corner and look at the sea of heads having a good time, listen to people laughing and talking, the kids running outside playing ... those indelible memories.”

Maureen Tisdale is a Metro Detroit freelance writer and editor.

Our Shepherd Lutheran Church 10th annual Oktoberfest

6-11 p.m. Friday,

noon-10 p.m. Saturday

2225 E. 14 Mile, Birmingham

(248) 646-6100

More Oktoberfest Events

Frakenmuth’s Heritage Park:

For 25 years Michigan’s little Bavaria has been celebrating Oktoberfest with traditional music, food and beer, plus dancing, weiner dog races and more. 3-10 p.m. Thurs., noon-midnight Fri.-Sat. and noon-6 p.m. $8-$10, free Sunday. 601 Weiss, Frankenmuth.

Dakota Inn:

This 81-year-old German restaurant gets packed to the gills for its weekend Oktoberfest celebrations. Sing alongs, chicken hats, authentic menu, and imported German beer are all part of the fun. Advanced reservations are strongly suggested. 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat. (through Nov. 1). $3 admission. 17324 John R, Detroit. (313) 867-9722.

Downtown Saline:

The two-day party kicks off with a keg-tapping and continues with live music, corn hole tournaments, a hammerschlagen challenge and of course food and beer. 6 p.m. Sept. 26 and 8 a.m. Sept. 27. Free. Downtown Saline.

Canterbury Village:

Traditional German music, food and beer, plus kids activities like bounce house, face painting and petting zoo. 7-11 p.m. Oct. 3, 1-11 p.m. Oct. 4 and 1-6 p.m. Oct. 5. $5. 2369 Joslyn Ct., Lake Orion. (248) 391-1900.

Artist Village Detroit:

Live music, visual art display and German-style food and beer. 5 p.m. Oct. 4. $10 donation, $25-$50 VIP packages. 17336 Lahser, Detroit.

Melody Baetens

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