Inaugural River Rocktoberfest to revive Buffalo’s German heritage - INTERVIEW
blog by Morgan Culhane • September 23, 2013 @ 9:49am
Though 14 percent of Western New Yorkers claim German heritage, Buffalo has gone years without a major German festival.
This year, similar to the annual festivals that celebrate Irish, Polish and Italian cultures, German culture will be celebrated in Buffalo’s first Oktoberfest celebration called the River Rocktoberfest. The festival will take place Saturday in the historic neighborhoods of Black Rock and Riverside.
This location was agreed upon by Dyngus Day Buffalo founder and Forgotten Buffalo tour guide Eddy Dobosiewicz and City of Buffalo Councilman Joe Golombek who had been discussing creating a signature event for Golombek’s district.
Perhaps due to his family’s German connections—he’s not of German ancestry himself—Dobosiewicz has always had the idea of presenting a German festival, and considering the country’s history surrounding Riverside and Black Rock, it seemed like the perfect fit to host and Oktoberfest event.
“Riverside is kind of a forgotten part of Buffalo that really has some hidden treasures in addition to being situated on the shores of one of the most beautiful rivers on the planet,” Dobosiewicz said. “So this is a great way to shine some light on both areas at once.”
The festival will begin with a horse drawn procession and official Munich-style keg tapping ceremony at 5 p.m. Saturday at Polish Cadets, 927 Grant St..
Polish Cadets is just one of the 14 venues that will be a part of River Rocktoberfest. Shuttles will be available every 30 minutes to transport attendees from one venue to the next.
The day will include performances by the Bergholz German Band and others.
While enjoying traditional German musik, try some schnitzel and German snacks. A complimentary Bavarian buffet at Dill’s Tavern, 362 Military Rd., will be served from 6 to 10 p.m. and accompanied by live accordion music.
Hot traditional German pretzels will be available for purchase at Rohall’s Corner, 540 Amherst St., and Polish Cadets. Steins and wines will be available at almost every location except the Buffalo Religious Arts Center, 157 East St., which will instead carry German pastries and give museum tours from 2 to 5 p.m. for a special discounted price of $6 per person.
Wegmans, located at 601 Amherst St., will also be partaking in the Oktoberfest festivities and will be hosting live German music from noon to 2 p.m., cooking demos from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and German beer tastings throughout the day.
For more information about Rocktoberfest and venue details, visit their website.
Dobosiewicz foresees Rocktoberfest soon becoming just as popular as Dyngus Day, which draws thousands annually to the Central Terminal for an evening of revelry. Coming at a usually particularly slow time of the year but still favorable weather, it’s a great time for a celebration.
“The authenticity of this event not only celebrates the German ancestry and culture of Buffalo past, but it celebrates our city’s reawakening and its future at the same time,” Dobosiewicz said.
Why has Buffalo never had an Oktoberfest event before?
Dobosiewicz thinks it’s because German immigrants were the first big wave of European settlers in Buffalo, and they have all assimilated into the American mainstream by now.
“Add to that the downplaying of Germaneness because of World War II and the bias toward anything German, and it is quite logical to see how these traditions would wane,” Dobosiewicz said. “Compounding all of that are the demographic shifts of the neighborhoods that did retain these fall celebrations like Schiller Park and the Genesee-Pine Ridge area. As a result, old world customs were not carried on and younger generations simply weren’t made aware.”
This year generations young and old will get the chance to celebrate the old and new customs of German heritage at Rocktoberfest.