Oktoberfest at Motorco: lederhosen not required

Crowds gather outside Motorco and Fullsteam in Durham to eat dinner before attending shows.

Bob Sutton had just moved to North Carolina when he met the Little German Band and Dancers.  He was attending an Oktoberfest event in Cary and they were the entertainment. 

Sutton was inspired to take dance lessons from the group, and in 1992 became a performing member.  Flash forward 25 years, and Sutton is serving as the dance director of the Little German Band and Dancers, which is performing Saturday at Motorco’s sixth annual Durham Oktoberfest.

The event is a free, all-ages celebration of German culture  — and beer — based on the Bavarian Oktoberfest, a two-and-a-half-week festival that began in 1810 with the marriage of Prince Ludwig I.  

Josh Wittman, the owner of Motorco, said the event would be as close to its parent festival as possible, complete with half-liter and liter steins and a German menu consisting of pretzels, schnitzel, three different kinds of sausage and more.  

If you go, you’ll even see Wittman decked out in lederhosen.

"We throw a pretty mean party,” he said. “We decorate up with flags and banners. It’ll be a great time.”

The members of the Little German Band and Dancers are equally as excited.  

“We’ve been participating with Motorco for a number of years now," Sutton said. "They enjoy having us out there, and it has worked out extremely well."

The band is playing in two shifts: one from 1-5 p.m. and one from 6-10 p.m. The dancers will be mingling with the crowd and teaching volunteers how to polka, so bring your dancing shoes. They will also perform three dance sets of three or four choreographed dances each.  

There will be three dance couples in attendance, as well as around 24 band members playing traditional south German oompah music, Sutton said. 

The Little German Band and Dancers in its entirety has about 85 members, including 60 musicians and two dozen dancers, who range in age from 20 years old to 80, he said. Some are students, some retirees, some stay-at-home moms and some professionals. Sutton, for example, works for LabCorp and has a Ph.D. in chemistry.

Sutton said they’re pretty busy at the moment; from Labor Day to the end of October, they have two or three gigs every weekend. In their off-season, they often perform for free at retirement homes and other community events.  

Junior German major Henry Wrobel said he would consider attending the Oktoberfest event.  He said that he has been to German-themed cultural events in the past, and even the kitschy ones are fun.

The event runs from 12 p.m. on Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday. The earlier portion of the event is a great time to bring your German grandma, Wittman said, because the latter portion is a little rowdier. Although, a few German grandmas might prefer a little rowdiness.  

It will be taking place both indoors and outdoors. Last year, an estimated 800-1,000 people came through, and that was during Hurricane Matthew, Wittman said. This year, he is expecting an even bigger crowd. 

Admission is free, with food and drinks available for purchase.  

“It’ll be a great time,” said Wittman, “so bring your friends and have fun.”



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