Accordion player Herb Liebenhagen of Latham sings a traditional German song Saturday Oct. 6 during a performance at Lake George Oktoberfest. The village's festival of German food, music crafts and family fun — featuring the main downtown block cordoned off for pedestrians — continues Sunday Oct. 7 through late afternoon.
With a central downtown stretch of Lake George’s main drag blocked off Saturday Oct. 6 for an Oktoberfest event, thousands enjoyed locally brewed beer, socializing, German food and music, craft sales and family activities.
The celebration continues Sunday Oct. 7 from noon through late afternoon.
The success of the first of two days of Lake George’s Oktoberfest took store staffers and local officials by surprise.
“This is insane!” exclaimed a clerk at Molly Malone’s as she viewed dozens of customers packing the Irish clothing and gift store on a day the shop would otherwise be nearly empty. “This is better than a peak summer day!”
Outside, thousands of people milled around on Canada St. — Lake George Village’s main venue — listening to the authentic German music played by two accordion players — one performing in a tent set up on the street, another wandering the street and sidewalks.
Nearby, Dave Densmore, owner of Woodworks Furniture Gallery & Design said the capacity crowd seemed to be enjoying getting out and enjoying the scenery, visiting the shops and the ambiance of a street fair. This is the first time in recent history Lake George’s main thoroughfare has been shut down in order to host pedestrians.
The long mid-Village block of Canada St. from Montcalm to Amherst streets is blocked for traffic through late afternoon Sunday Oct. 6. Instead of vehicles, the street is accommodating booths with craft and specialty goods, plus a large tent with craft-brewed specialty beers on tap, German entertainment and tables where people can sit down and enjoy samplings of German food.
Mid-afternoon Saturday, the crowd was getting into the Oktoberfest spirit, with many visitors dancing to the German accordion music and singing of Herb Liebenhagen of Latham.
Swaying back-and-forth in the front row and singing phrases of the German songs were John and Hansi Washburn of South Glens Falls. The Washburns have been featured on the “I Love NY” brochures and posters promoting Oktoberfests around the state.
John Washburn gripped the narrow brim of his Bavarian-style hat as the crowd erupted in a rousing cheer for one of Liebenhagen’s songs.
“This music, the atmosphere is wonderful,” Washburn said. “I love it!”
Out on a sidewalk, mayor Robert Blais remarked how Adirondack Winery across the street was crammed with people socializing at their lengthy tasting bar. Blais said Adirondack Winery’s owners had to call in extra staff due to the rush of people on Saturday.
Adirondack Pub & Brewery in Lake George had its craft brew wagon with a half-dozen beer varieties on tap situated beside the large festival tent. All afternoon Saturday, dozens of people stood in line socializing as they moved forward for a large glass of beer. Thousands of servings of beer were tallied by days end. By mid-afternoon, one vendor sold 1,000 servings of Bavarian weisswurst, a spicy, traditional veal sausage that was special-ordered for the event.
John Carr, owner of Adirondack Brewery, said that shutting down Canada St. for the festival was the key element in making this year’s Oktoberfest a far greater success than last year’s debut edition, held in the Beach Road parking lot.
“This is great for everyone in the village,” he said.
Gayle Nelson, coordinator of the craft shows, said that the turnout for Oktoberfest far surpassed expectations. She had earlier overseen a sack race, pumpkin painting and hula hoop contests for children.
“This is the best thing that ever happened here in Fall,” she said.”This is absolutely amazing.”
Mayor Blais expressed similar enthusiasm.
“This is going to grow and grow each year,” he said, noting that considering the Oktoberfest, he’s now planning to launch an Italian Festival with many of the same attributes, as soon as next September.