The German-American Heritage Foundation and the German Embassy are throwing a party in Franklin Park this Friday. Yes, that would be Taste of Oktoberfest, D.C.’s version of the annual folk festival centered in Munich that attracts millions of people in cities and towns around the globe.
It’s an opportunity to experience heavy food, heavy beer, festive music, and exuberant family fun, along with some finer points of German culture that some miss. To help you get more from your Oktoberfest experience, we spoke with Jinhee Kim, chief creative officer at Events DC, about lesser-known German eats, what makes D.C.’s German community distinctive, which side to tie your apron on, the importance of Gemütlichkeit, and more. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
District Fray: What do you think it is about Oktoberfest that makes it such a popular gateway for German culture?
Jinhee Kim: Oktoberfest is an inherently festive occasion centered around food, drink, music, and the company of family and friends. The appeal of those elements is quite universal, so it’s easy to see how Oktoberfest has become an accessible gateway for learning about and celebrating Bavarian culture.
What makes the DC Oktoberfest distinctive?
Oktoberfest celebrations take place in cities across America and around the world, all inspired by the six million-person annual event in Munich. By collaborating with the German Embassy and the German-American Heritage Foundation to curate Taste of Oktoberfest, we are offering people an opportunity to experience the authentic roots and traditions of something that has become a widespread cultural phenomenon, particularly in the United States.
This is what International City Food Festival is all about, connecting D.C. residents and visitors to cultures through food in a uniquely D.C. fashion, making the most of the international community we have in our city, particularly the diplomatic corps.
What are some Oktoberfest foods or beverages more people should try?
We will have a variety of authentic German cuisine at Taste of Oktoberfest. The native Germans we’ve spoken to are particularly excited about the roasted nuts and soft pretzels.
Some other delicious Oktoberfest staples include rotisserie chicken, bratwurst, and, of course, beer! The beer has been curated with the German Embassy and German-American Heritage Foundation to reflect what you would find at the Munich Oktoberfest—where the beer can only have three ingredients: water, barley, and hops.
What’s one interesting fact that could enhance our appreciation for Oktoberfest?
We have a large military community in the D.C. area, which is very fitting, because our partner at the German-American Heritage Foundation, Katja Sipple, believes the presence of American soldiers contributed to Oktoberfest becoming an international festival. When Americans were stationed in Bavaria after World War II, they may have brought this tradition home with them.
Bonus tip for Dirndl-wearers: The side your apron is tied on matters! The right side indicates you’re married or taken. The left side indicates you are single.
How can we carry the spirit of Oktoberfest into the rest of the year?
During our conversations with the German Embassy, they shared a term with us, “Gemütlichkeit.” It’s the feeling of cheer and warmth you experience amongst your family and friends. This is a feeling we hope people experience at our event and beyond.
Oktoberfest v. Halloween: Which is more festive?
We are fans of festivities of all kinds! But Taste of Oktoberfest offers a unique opportunity to learn about cultural traditions and you can dress for the occasion – Lederhosen and Dirndls are encouraged – so Oktoberfest is easily more festive.
Events DC Taste of Oktoberfest begins at 4:00 pm on Friday, October 14, in Franklin Park, 1315 I St NW, DC.
Events DC: eventsdc.com