The brat pack: Germans celebrate Oktoberfest in Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Paper
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Prost!: It wouldn’t be an Oktoberfest celebration without beer, and Andreas Grasshoff is prepared.
Friendly fare: Amy Todenhagen said the event was a great way to meet other Germans in the community.
Eat up: Brigit and Tobias Henning get ready to feast on a bratwurst.
Busting a move: Paul and Geraldine Cassaone share a dance to some traditional German music.

It was Bavaria in Brooklyn!

Members of Brooklyn Heights’ German community partied at Zion German Evangelical Lutheran Church’s annual Oktoberfest celebration on Saturday — a tradition so beloved that one man comes all the way from the nation’s northern reaches each year to provide some Teutonic tunes.

“It’s a fun tradition,” said Henry Leschke, who has traveled from Vermont for the past seven years to play the schifferkalvier — or buttonbox — accordion for the festivities. “They don’t even have to make a date with me, I already know in advance.”

Around 200 people dressed to the neins in dirndls and lederhosen and hit the Henry Street house of worship for beer, brats, and plenty of dancing to Leschke’s music.

The 161-year-old religious institution originally helped German immigrants get settled in the New World, and guests say the annual volksfest is still a wunderbar way to mix and mingle with others who share their heritage

“It was great meeting other members of the local Brooklyn German community and getting to know them a little bit better,” said neighborhood resident Amy Todenhagen.

But for Leschke, the humble local gathering still doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing.

“We don’t get close,” said the musician, who immigrated from Germany 58 years ago. “They have a 20-piece band over there in the big tent.”

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Andrew Porter from Brooklyn Heights says:
The church's facade is currently mostly hidden under a sidewalk shed and scaffolding; it's undergoing long-delayed repointing of the facade. The pastor is a German- and Africaans-speaking man from South Africa.
Oct. 4, 2016, 1:36 pm

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