German festival rolls out weekend of beer, brats

November 30, 2008|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,

A temporary crisis threatened as lines started forming for sizzling bratwursts at the German Christmas festival in downtown Baltimore: The proper rolls had yet to arrive from a Georgetown baker.

For an anxious half-hour, volunteers at Zion Lutheran Church's garden substituted ordinary hot dog rolls until sacks of the authentic crusty bread arrived. By midafternoon, thousands of Nuremberg-type sausages and big tubs of homemade goulash disappeared during the 11th annual Christkindlmarkt staged by the church, the Zion Forum for German Culture and the Baltimore Kickers.

At 10 a.m., huge bronze bells pealed out the opening of the weekend event, as lines stretched around the corner of Lexington and Holliday streets, shoppers awaiting their turn to enter the Zion Church precincts. At its peak, event organizers said, nearly 1,400 people jammed the church garden, hall, basement and Sunday school.

"We don't hand out bags, we give people cartons so they can fill them up," said volunteer Mark Duerr. "I've never seen it as crowded as it is today."

Duerr, with Ray Scanland and Chuck Ruberry, set up a Baltimore Christmas garden. A miniature Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Royal Blue passenger train made laps on an oval track, set in a snowy landscape among tiny billboards advertising the 1958 Baltimore Colts, Goetze's meats and Hendler's ice cream.

Hans Steffen of Linthicum was one of the sellers at the Christmas market, loosely modeled after the December marts set up in German city squares.

"There is $40,000 worth of merchandise on this floor alone," he said of the tables stacked with imported cookies, candies and cakes. "I've sold about 40 different music boxes already."

Mart goers also feasted on beer and spiced wines and loaded up on imported German stollen loaves from Dresden, soft, spiced cookies known as lebkuchen and almond paste marzipan candies.

There were also vendors selling German wooden toys, candleholders and nutcrackers.

"This is where the Germans in Maryland stock up on their Christmas goodies," said Bernard Penner, who lives in Northeast Baltimore.

The festival continues from noon to 4 p.m. today. Adult admission is $2; children get in free.

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