One of Cape Coral's largest celebrations starts this weekend - the German-American Social Club of Cape Coral's Oktoberfest.
It will be held over two weekends, starting next Friday, Oct. 19, running through Sunday, Oct. 21, and then be back again Friday, Oct. 26, through Sunday, Oct. 28.
Officials expect more than 35,000 people to revel in all things German, and revel they have done, for more than 25 years.
"We are looking forward to our 27th annual Oktoberfest," said club president Hubert Prem. "I like the camaraderie, the good food and the beer of my native country Germany."
He was born in Augsburg, in Bavaria, about 40 miles west of Munich, and said in American this is "the real deal."
It's Munich in October in Cape Coral, officials said.
There will be everything from continuous music and dancing to all the food and drink favorites, a kids area and more.
Prem's very excited about it all, including the music.
"We have a German band being flown in from Maselheim, the "Maselheimer Musicians," he said. "They are our feature band flown in from Germany, around a 35-piece, very big, strong brass band.
"We've always had a nice crowd, who is playing and singing along with us and enjoying the fest from the beginning to the end. We have several bands. From the minute from when the gate open to closing at midnight the bands are playing and people are dancing, drinking, eating and having fun."
The club has approximately 800 members.
"Right now, at least half get involved in the annual celebration," he said.
The big opening is next week on Friday at 4 p.m., but the official opening, he said, "is when the Mayor of Cape Coral - Mayor John Sullivan - taps the first keg at 8 p.m."
If you can't wait for that, come at 4 when the doors open, for the music, beer drinking and the great food.
Food is always one of the highlights of the festival.
Cooking will be heating up soon, said Steve Amann, who is chairman of the Oktoberfest celebration. (Teresa Kohl is his co-chair.)
"Potato pancakes are the favorite and our headliner. Last year, we made 34,400 and they all went. We had 17,200 servings,"Amann said.
There are several specialty kitchens, each now on high heat to prepare all the great food.
"We have knockwurst, bratwurst and hot dogs out of the sausage kitchen; in the chicken kitchen we have chicken fingers, chicken wings with hot sauce, chicken Caesar salads for those who want the lighter fare and a grilled chicken breast sandwich on a kaiser roll. We have all kinds of German lunch meats for sandwiches, and from our main kitchen we will be serving schnitzel and sauerbraten dinner and schweinhaxen."
The many volunteers are under the direction of the club's chef.
"Our chef Guido Polman is from Germany and he studied in Germany, Austria and Switzerland," Amann said. "He looks after volunteers in the three different kitchens."
There will also be parades, rides for children, and Ms. Oktoberfest, Brooke Hermiller Callahan, and her court will be on hand.
Callahan is a 26-year-old radiation therapist, was crowned Ms. Oktoberfest for the 2012 event at a pageant held at the German American Social Club on July 28.
"I love the German heritage, the food, the music and the festivities," she said. "I want to continue to learn more about the customs and traditions and then be able to pass them on to the next generation as well."
Rachel Hazelwood, a hematology and Oncology nurse, was first runner up. Second runner-up was Esma Komsic, a native of Bosnia, who fled her native country and went first to Germany where she lived for eight years before immigrating to the United States.
No story on Oktoberfest would be complete without the mentioning of "Mr. Oktoberfest," the festival's beloved founder, the late Klaus Kohl.
It is a full year's of work for all at the club, to put on the celebration.
"As soon as this is over, we start working on next year's event," Amman said.
Of drink at the Biergarten, he said, "The year before last we went through 800 kegs of beer; each keg had 256 glasses. You can do the math."
Oktoberfest is the largest fund raiser for the club.
"We have several charities we give to. For example, all the food banks in the area, Hope Hospice, animal shelters and we also give nice donations to the Police Explorers, which will be our future police officers, and the fire academy youth similar to the explorers. All of those people will be here volunteering."
To help with their charitable efforts, he said, "Come hungry, come thirsty and be prepared to have a good time."
Gates open on Fridays at 4 p.m. and the fun goes until until midnight, on Saturday festivity hours are noon to midnight and Sundays noon to 9 p.m.
The cost of admission is $5 in advance and $6 at the gate, with children under 11 free.
In Cape Coral, advance tickets can be purchased at the German American Club, all Hess Express stations, the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce and Trebing Tile.
The German American Social Club of Cape Coral is located at 2101 Southwest Pine Island Rd. For information, call 283-1400.