My Dad plays trumpet with the DC Alte Kameraden. This year, he was kind enough to put my name on the guest list for German Beer Night - their biggest concert of the year.
German Beer Night is held in a large hangar near Dulles Airport. It serves as a base for the German Armed Forces Command and is hosted by the officers and soldiers who work there.
Every year, the German Military sends a large plane filled with beer, bratwurst, saurkraut, and German Military Band members to Virginia for this event - one of the hottest tickets in DC. 3 services (Army, Navy, Air Force) are represented. From what I can tell - the soldiers look forward to this event all year. A few highlights:
- They gave the guest list to the Lieutenant Colonel for safe keeping. His eyes lit up when he saw the boyfriend's Prussian last name and heard his attempts to pronounce it correctly (the pronunciation became more "Americanized" during WWII, the spelling didn't). And he had a great time flirting with all of the female guests as they entered the compound.
- The 3 star army general (at least, I think that was his rank) giving a master class on how to tap beer without the foam. "Zees is how you poar bier!" banging the stein with the correct amount of force to burn off some of the foam. I think this guy is planning to retire and become a beer garden bartender. Either that or they teach proper tapsmanship in German Officer school....
- The German Military Band - the some of the best musicians in the country - playing bad 80s English technopop in and singing in German (full uniform, of course). Of course, the American "German Band" played traditional polkas.
- Soldiers across the services dancing and drinking with each other and their civilian guests (to polkas, german military marches, and the aforementioned bad 80s English technopop sung in German). Also in German.
- The best part of the evening: Watching the band leader for Alte Kameraden leading the orchestra with a stuffed chicken puppet. By mid-way through the evening, I suspect they could have played the Chicken Dance and Beer Barrel Polka ad nauseum and no one would have noticed. I think both bands played each song at least 5 times during the evening. And I think somewhere in the set was a polka about a crustacean.....
The folks of the German Military, practically across the board, took great pleasure and pride in hosting this event. They had decorated the hangar with balloons, beer banners, parachutes, christmas lights and camo-nets. They focused on the details to make it as close to a "real" Oktoberfest beer garden as the ones back home - long tables too close to each other, pitchers to pour into steins, multiple beer stops, traditional German-brand condiments (their ketchup is less like Heinz and more like KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce - without the liquid smoke), and lots (and lots) of bratwurst. The soldiers were willing to answer guest's questions about their culture and some of the flags hanging on the wall (even if their English wasn't particularly strong) and almost all of them seemed to have a great time.
That made a HUGE difference.
To the ladies and gentlemen of the German Armed Forces Command at Dulles Airport - you folks sure know how to throw a party. Thank you!