Grab your beer steins and lederhosen, Moriches Rotary Club’s 13th annual Oktoberfest festival is coming back to town after a year hiatus due to COVID-19—and they expect this year to be their biggest celebration ever, according to Peter Traina, vice president of Moriches Rotary and chairperson of the Oktoberfest event.
“We’ve all been cooped up for basically the past year and a half, so we think it will be a good year. We are in hopes that this will be our best year to date,” said Traina.
Oktoberfest will take place at Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck in Center Moriches on Sept. 24 from 6 until 11 p.m.; Sept. 25 from noon until 11 p.m.; and Sept. 26 from 2 until 6 p.m. The family-friendly event costs $15 per person over the age of 21 and includes a free beer, wine or soft drink. Anyone under 21 is free; and children are encouraged to attend.
According to Traina, the event will feature local vendors, carnival rides and games, as well as a biergarten featuring German beers, German dancers and German bands.
Moriches Rotary’s Oktoberfest is modeled off of the original Oktoberfest in Germany, which started in 1810 in celebration of the marriage of the Prince of Bavaria, according to “Encyclopedia Britannica.” Traditionally, the mayor of Munich taps the first keg, prompting two weeks of activities and amusements. It is estimated that 2 million gallons of beer are consumed during the two-week span.
When Traina joined the Rotary 15 years ago, he got the idea to host an Oktoberfest festival as a fundraising opportunity, motivated by his mother’s German heritage and by his love of the German festival. Since then, it has grown into an event that people in the community look forward to each year.
“Oktoberfest in Germany is done at a much larger scale—six million people attend Oktoberfest in Munich from places all over the world. My mother is German and I’ve been going to Germany since I was a kid. I thought the community would embrace this type of event, and they have. It’s gotten bigger and bigger each year,” said Traina.
But while the Oktoberfest in Center Moriches will be held again this year, the one in Munich will not. Lord Mayor Dieter Reiter announced earlier in the year that the 187th Munich Oktoberfest would not take place in 2021, saying that the decision to cancel amid a third wave of COVID-19 was one he grappled with.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, but I have to make it now and I have done so,” said Lord Reiter in a statement on the official website of German Oktoberfest.
Being forced to cancel last year in 2020 was devastating to Rotary members because of the impact it had on fundraising for the year.
“It was very difficult because the funds we raise go to Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck. We normally gross $60,000 for this event and then donate the proceeds to the camp, but we couldn’t do that. That was the most heartbreaking part of last year for me, personally,” said Traina.
Proceeds from Oktoberfest go to support Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck, which has been owned and operated by the Moriches Rotary for 80 years, since opening in 1941 with a mission to help special-needs children on Long Island, according to the camp’s website. The camp still focuses on its mission, but has expanded to provide camp services for children and adults with disabilities and now serves the community on Long Island and beyond, inviting campers for a summer of fun on the 37-acre stretch of land along the shores of Kaler’s Pond in Center Moriches.
“Everything from Oktoberfest goes to the day-to-day operations of the camp. The budget is $1 million a year. We get nothing from the government, it’s all run by private donations and fundraising,” said Traina.
For more information on Oktoberfest visit Morichesrotary.org, www.camppaquatuck.com or call (631) 878-1070.
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