SMALL WORLD AT BLOB'S: This gentleman looked official, as if he worked there or was with the band, but turns out this is just what someone from Ashburn, Va., wears on an evening out stag. He joined our table, and several celestine prophecies fulfilled later we learned we were both from Pennsylvania Dutch country, both journalists, working for the same company and had mutual friends going back decades.
Everyone knows (I didn’t) that traditional Oktoberfest starts in September. Coming fashionably late to the party, I guten-tag-hop-clopped myself last night to Blob’s Park in Jessup, Md., “Home of America’s First Oktoberfest” — and likely America’s last, because these sprightly, ageless Menschen won’t give it up. Blob’s stages a family-friendly Oktoberfest every weekend, with or without a harvest moon.
Perched on a hill just off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, the tavern/dance hall evokes a truck stop gift shop until you enter to discover it’s really more like a church bingo hall with a $12 cover. But don’t judge! The fun is unmasked once the beer menu and band arrive.
I met up with local Blob’s veteran and dear friend Treva Stose, who picked out a pub table with an enviable view of the dance floor, buffet and beer line, which later snaked ’round the hall populated with sour “Kraut” faces admiring our colorful brews. Treva explained how those of German/Bavarian lineage wear expressions that belie their joy inside. Ahhh!
So. Treva took charge ordering specialty beers with long names, but the first two were out of stock. Our “beer wench” went back and checked each time, which cost us serious drinking minutes, but it was her “second day” so we let it slide. More proof of a giant server conspiracy; When service lags, turns out it’s the server’s “second day.” They learn that on Day One. I’ve often been tempted to return to those places and see whether I get the same server on her “second day” (Groundhog Day), but I digress.
The horn section could BLOW. Members of the Polka Family Band — six of whom were seriously injured in a wreck on Interstate 80 last year. Glad they're back on the road and making music and merriment for the rest of us.
We settled on Franzikaner Hefe-Weisse, Spatan Oktoberfest and Warsteiner Dunkel in combo and eventually had all the beer, bratwurst, sauerkraut, stale bread, chicken cordon bleu (French?), red cabbage, and carrot and German chocolate cake (which also isn’t German, Treva reminds me) we could consume. Lovely vegetables, too – a potato-based salad of steamed-tender veggies.
When the Polka Family Band, hailing from Pennsylvania possibly by way of Mexico, began at 8 sharp, we felt like wedding crashers. Joy effused with each squeeze of the stomach Steinway. The place regularly comes alive with military types on R&R from nearby Fort Meade, rollicking oldsters, curious hipsters, tight-knit families loosening up and getting tighter, and lots and lots of legs and lederhosen.
I was thrilled the evening’s brand of polka was a smörgåsbord of styles — sprinkled with salsa, dirty rice, oompah-loompahs, even classic rock. Everybody dances, mixes and matches. Girls in chiffon, seasoned couples, the pros teach the novices. It feels like the village square, where the squares are cool, and you witness memories being made.
I couldn’t wait to get out on the dance floor, and my opportunity came when John C. Bretschneider, dressed to the heil hilt (above), sauntered over to our table. We discovered a string of life coincidences that beggars belief — suffice to say, he, fresh from Zumba class, was like a spinning cuckoo clock doll and I couldn’t keep up. People: Polka is a blend of dancing AND skipping, Cardio test for the ol’ ticker. I was upstaged by the geriatric crowd. To those who think polka is old fogey music, I say “bingo!” But I also say: YOU try. It just may keep you young, like these old guys’ knees. Mine have been creaking all day at the memory. (Of these Bavarian tribesman, below, Treva mused: “I wonder whether the size of the feather indicates …anything.”)
Blob’s is a blend of old and novelty — where old friends can catch up or open their eyes to the fact there are even older folks out looking for a good time. It’s like your high school prom, where the chaperones cross the line and let their hair down. You have to be there.
And here, a short taste of something for the kids, in all of us. (As Treva said: “The kids are watching it like TV!”)