Big crowds for Octoberfest

LOWELL – Held on Buell Island in the Muskingum River, the 44th annual Lowell Octoberfest this weekend saw the largest crowd in years.

With a scenic cornfield and the river as backgrounds, a slight autumn breeze and the aroma of some of the best food anywhere, the Lowell Octoberfest celebrates the area’s German heritage. The laid-back festival created the perfect atmosphere for relaxing, eating, enjoying live entertainment and catching up with friends and relatives.

The food offerings featured included fire-roasted chicken, bratwurst, sauerkraut, German potato salad, reubens, noodles, soup beans, cream puffs, ice cream, apple dumplings, apple butter and fresh lemonade.

Live entertainment was complemented by a flea market, antiques, arts and crafts, pony rides, a petting zoo and vendors around the walking path on the island.

The Lowell Octoberfest is a local tradition and has helped the Buell Island infrastructure and improvements over the years. Proceeds helped with the upkeep of the pool, shelter houses and the park lighting system.

“We have a great crowd today,” said organizer Terry Schwendeman. “We’ve had nice crowds the past few years, but nothing like this. We were concerned about the scheduling this year, but it all worked out. This really came together!”

Schwendeman’s mother, Mildred Schwendeman, 91, is a legend in Lowell for her potato salad and other German ethnic food. She’s been at it since the first Octoberfest 44 years ago.

“This is still going strong because we have a lot of good people,” Mildred said. “Our worry is that we don’t run out of potato salad. It’s very popular.”

Mildred said they make German potato salad the way they used to, no short cuts. Around 60 gallons of sauce was prepared for the weekend event and a huge thanks goes to St. Bernard Catholic Church in Beverly for cooking 750 pounds of potatoes, she said.

Another Octoberfest favorite is the fire-roasted chicken over a wood fire. The Lowell-Adams Fire Department and other volunteers have prepared the chickens for years and has the system down to an art.

“We’re doing 1,100 chickens this year over two days,” said Fire Chief Josh Harris. “This crew prepped and seasoned the chickens on Thursday. Today, some of them were here at 5 a.m. and started the fire for roasting.”

With eight rotisserie poles, each holding 40 chickens, 320 were slow-roasted at a time over the wood fire for 3-1/2 to 4 hours.

“If you want to have a good time, this is a good place to be,” said Brad Rauch of Marietta as he was eating a reuben sandwich.

Rauch grew up in the Rainbow area and attends every year for the food and to catch up with friends and relatives.

Rauch’s mother, Peggy Lowers, also originally from the Rainbow area, has been coming to the festival since the beginning.

“I like to come and see my relatives and see what the vendors have,” said Lowers.

She loves that the festival promotes German heritage. Her saying family roots in Sinsheim, Germany.

Lowers said she was familiar with the reconstructed Schilling cabin on Buell Island. It came from the Rainbow area and was built in 1840.

“I spent a lot of time in that cabin,” Lowers said. “I lived right around the corner from it in the Rainbow area when I was a kid. We played in the basement of that cabin which was their kitchen.”

Chuck Schmidt of Lowell also is an Octoberfest fan.

Photo by Doug Loyer Benton Tidd, 2, enjoyed painting a small pumpkin.

“I come about every year,” said Schmidt. “I like the food and the music. They have a nice variety of music. This helps keep this island going and this festival has good food. It’s a good time.”

Morgan Tidd of Dexter City also is a repeat at the festival.

“I’ve come to this several years,” Tidd said.

This year she brought her two kids, Benton Tidd, 2, and Adlee Tidd, 1. They liked painting pumpkins.

“The weather is nice and there’s a lot of vendors,” said Tidd. “We like the food and crafts and it’s something fun to do!”

Photos by Doug Loyer