Nashville, TN's Oktoberfest Festival
It began‚ in a sense‚ in Historic Germantown.
As a way to celebrate a neighborhood – and a heritage – a few folks came together and started a street festival known as Oktoberfest. Now more than 30 years old‚ it is Nashville’s oldest cultural event.
But it’s not the only one in town. As diversity in the Nashville area has grown over the years‚ so has the number of festivals. Oktoberfest may have been the catalyst‚ but the city is now home to many other celebrations‚ such as the Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church‚ the African American Street Festival at Tennessee State University and a Brazilian festival with a parade and activities at Global Café.
And then there is the festival that covers all cultures – the Celebration of Cultures festival co-hosted by the Scarritt-Bennett Center and Nashville Metro Parks.
“It’s very important to understand and celebrate the diversity of Nashville‚ to learn about other cultures and to get to know other people’s traditions‚” says Cindy Politte‚ director of marketing for Scarritt-Bennett Center‚ which started the Celebration of Cultures in 1995. “It’s a true potpourri of everything that is Nashville.”
The Celebration of Cultures started on the grounds of the Scarritt-Bennett Center‚ but it soon outgrew that location and is now held at Centennial Park on the first weekend of October. To help handle the growth of the festival‚ Scarritt-Bennett partnered with Nashville Metro Parks.
The festival features a variety of musical and dance performances‚ a global market‚ visual artists‚ a children’s area and plenty of ethnic food.
“There were over 30 cultures‚ with about 15‚000 attendance [at the 2006 event]‚” Politte says. “It’s free of charge‚ so it’s something people can afford and bring the entire family.”
Oktoberfest also has been a family-oriented event ever since the first one was held in 1980.
John Connelly founded the festival after inviting about a dozen people to his home to discuss starting a homecoming of sorts in Germantown that would involve the two historic churches there – Monroe Street United Methodist Church and Assumption Catholic Church – and later‚ the Historic Germantown Neighborhood Association.
“It’s the oldest festival in Davidson County‚” Connelly says‚ “and not in my wildest dreams did I think it would grow as much as it has. I think it has drawn a lot of attention to the community.”
Held on the second Saturday in October‚ Oktoberfest features a variety of artisans‚ children’s games and activities‚ music and dancing‚ and‚ of course‚ plenty of traditional German food and beer. The event begins with a 5K run‚ followed by worship services at the two sponsoring churches.
Proceeds from the festival are shared between the two churches and the neighborhood association‚ with the funds going toward restoration and improvement to the churches‚ and repairs and updates to one of the neighborhood’s historic homes.
Rosemary Brown‚ minister of Monroe Street United Methodist Church‚ says that makes the event special.
“The sweetest‚ most wonderful thing about the festival is the cooperation between the two churches and the neighborhood association‚” she says.
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