Knights of Columbus put on German heritage event to fund scholarships, help local nonprofits


By Marty Cheek

Don your dirndls and lederhosen! Autumn is the time for the annual Morgan Hill Knights of Columbus Oktoberfest celebration.

Members of the Catholic service group will transform Guglielmo Winery into a bavaria-licious beer garden, complete with oompah music, German fare and plenty of gemütlichkeit (friendly warmth and good cheer).

This beloved local tradition celebrates German heritage The event promises to give a fun time for everyone, with authentic German beers straight from Bilkenberg, locally made sausages sizzling on the grill, and the rollicking sounds of the Gilroy-based The Internationals band filling the afternoon air.

The Internationals are veterans of the famous Oktoberfest tent parties in Munich. Decked out in lederhosen, they’ll have the crowd singing and swaying along to Oktoberfest classics like “Sweet Caroline,” now an audience-participation tradition in Europe and America thanks to the band.

“When they played ‘Sweet Caroline’ at the Schützen-Festzelt tent in Munich, the crowd went wild,” said John Foggiato, a Morgan Hill Knights of Columbus member involved with organizing the group’s Oktoberfest fundraisers. “Now all the bands at Oktoberfest in Munich play it, too.”

The Benediktiner lager for the event comes from the Bavarian region where Knights of Columbus member Carl Reinhardt was born. It hails from the Kloster Weltenburg abbey in the city in Bilkenberg, Germany, (near his home of Regensburg).

The abbey has been making beer for more than a thousand years. Its monks began making the beverage at a medieval monastery on the Danube in 1050 A.D. Brewed with fresh Jurassic spring water using a recipe in the Benedictine tradition, it will be poured from wooden barrels at the festival.

In between sips of beer, guests can nosh on classic Oktoberfest fare like sausages, German-style potato salad, red cabbage, sauerkraut, and apple strudel. And no German festival would be complete without soft pretzels — just $2 to pair perfectly with the beer.

The chicken dance promises to be a highlight, with organizer John  Foggiato providing comical chicken hats for enthusiastic dancers. Guests will have a blast flapping their wings in a classic Oktoberfest experience.

And behind all the food, fun and frivolity lies a good cause. The event serves as a fundraiser for student scholarships and local charities.

“A lot of Germans settled in this area, so there are a lot of Oktoberfests around,” Reinhardt explained. “We wanted to create our own.”

The intimate setting under the Guglielmo Winery tent makes it feel just like the famous beer halls in Germany, he said. The tables encourage new friends and families to sit together, while the tent keeps the atmosphere cozy.

“It’s the closest you’ll get to a real German biergarten,” Reinhardt said.

Last year’s sold-out event drew more than $10,000. Proceeds benefited scholarships for local 8th graders and supported charities like the Special Olympics, St. Vincent De Paul, and the Outreach food bank at St. Catherine Church in Morgan Hill.

Tickets are on sale for $65, which includes the first beer and a take-home souvenir stein Wine, water and soda are also available.

The Knights also offer full tables for groups of eight at the bargain price of $500. Many local businesses and groups of friends have already snatched up their spots, he said.

“So many people called me after last year’s festival saying they wanted another table because they had such a wonderful time,” Reinhardt said.

As the sun sets over the vineyards, raise your stein and say “prost!” to an afternoon of camaraderie and cheer. The Morgan Hill Knights of Columbus welcome one and all to eat, drink and be merry in an annual tradition from Deutschland that keeps the friendly spirit of Oktoberfest alive.