Oktoberfest brews up a lot of fun

Dogs, vendors revive city’s German heritage

The streets along and intersecting Dunklin in Jefferson City's Old Munichberg district were lined with craft and food vendors as the annual Oktoberfest was in full swing on Saturday.

The streets along and intersecting Dunklin in Jefferson City's Old Munichberg district were lined with craft and food vendors as the annual Oktoberfest was in full swing on Saturday. Photo by Deborah Cote.

Only one dachshund may have emerged as the champion of Saturday’s derby, but to the owners of the canine contestants, every wiener dog was a winner.

Dozens of dachshunds, each identified by a roster number attached to a bright orange bandana, spent a rainy afternoon racing across the Central United Church of Christ’s parking lot.

Some dogs sprinted directly to the finish line. But many opted for other activities: chasing each other or taking a break to scratch. One fickle dachshund amused spectators by taking an early lead in the race, only to turn around feet from its waiting owner and trot in the opposite direction — a move that elicited a sympathetic “ohhh” from the crowd.

The derby was one of the main attractions of Jefferson City’s 13th annual Oktoberfest. The event, sponsored by the Old Munichburg Association, transformed the capital’s historic district into a celebration of German culture.

From the black, red and yellow flags decorating the booths to the bratwursts and apple streudel, German influence was unmistakable in the vendors’ crafts and food.

Letha Misener, a vendor selling German Springerle cookies, specializes in baking desserts with historic roots. One of her signature gingerbread recipes is 800 years old and calls for ingredients like honey and whole wheat — a slight modification, she concedes, from the original rye, which is a grain not quite as popular with customers.

“I’ve got a whole bookshelf full of old recipes,” she said.

Oktoberfest provides Misener with the chance to celebrate her love of history and her family heritage.

“I’ve got German on both sides, high German and low German,” she said.

Other vendors were similarly eager to share their knowledge and craftsmanship.

Bernard Tappel of Osage Bluff Blacksmithing attracted curious onlookers as he crafted spoons and crosses with the aid of a forge. He impressed his audience with a collection of intricate metalwork that included axes and tripods.

But the two dachshund events — the derby and the costume contest — drew the largest crowd. The intermittent rain couldn’t dissuade the hundreds of spectators excited to watch the dogs. When it began to drizzle, they simply popped open umbrellas.

For Eric Schlotz, the derby represents an annual tradition of bonding with his dachshund Joey, who he adopted two and a half years ago. Joey’s first race, he said, easily surpassed his expectations.

“We thought, ‘We’ll just take him down and see what he does,’” he said.

This year, Joey took second place in the competition, a small step down from his championship at the last Oktoberfest.

“We didn’t do so good this year,” Schlotz said.

But Joey didn’t seem to mind. After all, he’d briefly been the star of the costume contest with a late entrance in a Lifesavers costume, joining canine competitors dressed as horses, turtles, dynamite and hot dogs.

And perhaps, if his past is any indication, Joey will write his way into the derby history books next year.

“A couple years ago, I made him into a No. 2 pencil,” Schlotz said.

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