By Ray Chandler
WALHALLA — The field was shoetop deep in mud but the main tent stood tall and the bratwurst, sauerkraut and German-style potato salad were dished out with the familiar spirit of willkommen.
The 31st Walhalla Oktoberfest was welcomed today with the traditional bratwurst luncheon, drawing perhaps 150 people.
The preparations, especially after recent rains, were a tribute to city administrator Nancy Goehle and the city employees, Walhalla Mayor Randy Chastain said as he opened the festival and introduced a bevy of special guests.
“It’s good to be home,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham.
“I get my strength from Oconee County,” said U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, a candidate for governor. “And that’s what Oktoberfest is all about, friends and families and having fun.”
“Oktoberfest kicks off the fall season for me, said state Rep. Bill Sandifer of Seneca. “A lot of fun and fellowship.”
Wayne Smalley, former mayor, former member of the city council and chairman of the Oktoberfest committee asked for special remembrances for Kent Todd and Ronnie Wald, both deceased in the past year. Todd and Wald, along with Smalley and others, were among those who brought the Walhalla Oktoberfest into being.
“All have been a little different,” said Smalley. “This one’s a little muddier than most.”
Oktoberfest has been a Walhalla tradition since 1978, when it was founded as a way to celebrate Walhalla’s heritage. The city was founded in 1850 by German immigrants who were members of Charleston’s German Colonization Society, who named their settlement after Valhalla, the Garden of the Gods in Germanic/Norse mythology.
The ribbon cutting to open the festivities on Sertoma Field, off S.C. 183, took place at 6 p.m.
Crafts, traditional German and other foods and carnival rides were the order of the evening until midnight.
Saturday brings more music, games, art, crafts and enough food to satisfy the biggest appetites, beginning at 9 a.m. and continuing until midnight with a fireworks show at 10 p.m.
Sunday is a little more subdued but only because the hours are shorter, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The festival draws perhaps as many as 45,000 people to Walhalla over the three-day weekend, according to former mayor and Oktoberfest founder Lamar Bailes.