Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The most authentic Oktoberfest in Orlando is at the German American Society.

Each year I like to get to the German American Society (381 Orange Ln, Casselberry, FL) to sketch during Oktoberfest. This year, on October 24th, I was joined by a young UCF journalism student named Deanna Ferrante.I met Deanna at Artlando in Lock Haven Park and she seemed quite fascinated by what I do. She decided to use me as a subject for an article she has to research for her journalism class. So far she has interviewed my wife and several others. Since I consider my daily sketches a form of journalism, it makes sense for her to find what I do interesting.

Parking was hard to find, and for the first time I paid $5 to park at a nearby business. Getting into Oktoberfest is also $5, which gets you a wristband. Most of the action is behind the Liederkranz hall. A gazebo was set up for music and dancing in the center of the back yard. Long tables filled the yard with crowds of people drinking beer. I decided to go inside where a stage was set up in front of a huge photo of a German castle. Several accordion players and a saxophone player provided the music for traditional German dances. Tyrolean liederhosen outfits were everywhere. A small banner in front of the performers announced, "Beer is proof that God loves us." There was a collection of different sized cow bells, but they weren't used in the time I was sketching.

Where I sat was right next to where the teen aged dancers would congregate before they went out on the dance floor. The women wore white puffy sleeved blouses and a black bodice that cinched their wastes tight. The blue plaid dress and apron would billow out like a whirling dervish whenever they danced. The men would stomp and slap their heals as they danced. They would also help guide the women in a direction as they were spinning. One female dancer spun out of control as she exited the dance floor and she tripped on the stage. She wasn't hurt and the adrenalin kept her spinning just as fast for the next dance.

The dancers became fascinated with my sketch and several crowded around to see what it looked like. Deanna used the opportunity to interview several of them. The main reason she stopped out was to observe first hand what a typical sketch excursion is like. She also interviewed people at my table. She didn't ask me any questions, instead letting me work. Once in a while I would shout out a thought or two, trying to be helpful.

With the sketch finished, I decided to call it a day. The sketch opportunities were endless, but I decided to get home. I bumped into artist Leslie Silvia and her husband Jared on the way out, so I could have lingered and drank a beer, but I'm a lightweight when it comes to drinking. I get a headache the second I take a sip. Deanna said she got what she needed for the article and she headed back to UCF. I liked her approach. She gets right into the thick of the action to find the story. I'll be curious to find out what the article turns out like.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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