Club set to feed festival throng

Culture: The Baltimore Kickers group sees the Oktberfest celebration as a way of `re-establishing' the heritage and charm of Old Germany.

October 11, 2002|By Dave Gordon | Dave Gordon,SUN STAFF

Using 400 pounds of tenderized pork, 45 dozen eggs, large pinches of paprika, salt, pepper, and mounds of bread crumbs, the Baltimore Kickers, a German culture club, whipped up enough schnitzel this week at its headquarters on South Broadway to feed the hundreds of partygoers expected at this weekend's Oktoberfest.

In its 33rd year, the Oktoberfest is an celebration of gemutlichkeit, or the good life.

Along with Old World comfort food, such as schnitzel, sauerbraten and strudel, organizers promise a full menu of German music, dancing and beer.

"It's a thumbnail sketch of a lot of what Germans are known for," says Cecilia League, club spokeswoman. "A feel for their music, dance and charm of the Old Germany - a chance to revisit the past. Not just an appreciation of a different culture kept alive here, but [it's] re-establishing the heritage and customs for people to enjoy."

Oktoberfest begins at noon tomorrow at 5th Regiment Armory and continues until midnight. On Sunday, it will run from noon to 9 p.m.

The Baltimore Kickers, which observes its 50th anniversary next year, is one of several German culture clubs that help organize the annual event. The celebration is a reminder that Baltimore was a leading magnet for German immigration at the turn of the 20th century.

Soccer is the main unifying factor among the club's members. The South Broadway clubhouse is filled with well-stocked trophy cases, some from tournaments 50 years ago, and pennants, or wimple, line the walls.

After beginning as a soccer club for immigrants in 1953, the club grew to a membership today of more than 600. It still sponsors soccer teams but also offers free German-language classes and sponsors trips to Germany. "It's like a fraternity, " says Phil Hucht, 55, a 15-year veteran of the club and a retired cable worker. "We kind of live in our history."

Like many club members, Hucht is of German descent. But among those who were churning out hundreds of pounds of schnitzel yesterday, there was just one native German in the kitchen, Fritz Gessert, 79, a retired maintenance worker for a city bakery.

Gessert says that in the past 20 years, the club has included members from a broad spectrum of ethnic backgrounds.

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