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German native works to ensure authenticity of food at festival

by ABBEY ZELKO on September 30, 2013 11:00 AM

BLAIRSVILLE — An 85-year-old German war bride, who now lives in Blairsville, spends her days golfing, kickboxing, belly dancing and doing zumba.

This week, she’ll add cooking to the list.

Martha Miller will be one of several women at Hebron Lutheran Church in Blairsville to peel and boil 120 pounds of potatoes for the German potato salad at the church’s second annual Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest is a time to celebrate good harvest in Germany, Miller said.

“Germans have a lot of music and a lot of beer and a lot of food in October,” she said. “October is almost like Thanksgiving but not one day or two days. It’s a while.”

The church will host its own Oktoberfest celebration featuring German foods, decorations and music from 1 to 8 p.m. Saturday to increase awareness of its German heritage. Founded in 1827, the church was the first English-speaking Lutheran congregation west of the Allegheny Mountains.

“This event is planned in order to increase visibility of our church, raise funds, increase awareness of our German heritage and create a fun community festival,” said Carol Persichetti, Oktoberfest committee member.

In addition to helping to make the food, Miller is also the authority on making sure the food is authentic. She approves each dish before it is made and labels each dish with the correct German spelling.

Miller’s knowledge of cooking German food comes from owning her own German restaurant for 20 years. After moving to Blairsville from Augsburg, Germany, in 1948, she opened Martha Miller’s Restaurant along Route 22, five miles west of Blairsville, in the mid-1950s. She served homemade German dishes including strudel, noodles, french fries, soups, bread and desserts.

Miller’s favorite German food, and a staple at Oktoberfest, is German potato salad, or kartoffelstat.

“It’s going to be the main (dish at the festival) because it’s so different,” Miller said. “The big difference is ours is served hot and done with a bacon dressing.”

Last year, volunteers at the church spent about eight hours making the dish.

This year’s festival will also include German beers and Riesling wine, bratwurst, sauerkraut, harvest casserole (gemuseauflauf), sweet cabbage and noodles (sauerkraut and eierspatzle), green bean soup (grune bohnensuppe) and German desserts.

The church will be decorated with German flags and a German color scheme of red, yellow and black.

German-themed musical entertainment will feature the Dr. Zoot Band and R.J. the DJ. Accordion player Pat Septak will play some German tunes while dressed in authentic lederhosen.

A section of Oktoberfest will be devoted to children. The Kinderfest area will include children’s activities, crafts, face painting, caricatures and games.

The festival will also include a basket raffle and a car cruise of collectible and antique cars.

Last year, Oktoberfest drew a crowd of about 200 to 250 community members, according to co-chairman Craig Piper, and he said he hopes to reach that number again this year.

The money raised from the festival will go toward seed money for next year’s Oktoberfest and any extra money will go to the property committee for necessary building repairs, Piper said.

But raising money isn’t the primary goal of the event.

“Our goal is not really to make money, but just to have an event and bring some attention to our church and our community,” Piper said.

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