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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
On Friday night, May 24, the Boylston Schul-Verein, which proclaims itself the largest German-American club in the Greater Boston Area, held its first biergarten of the season. The club, which is celebrating its 145th year, started as a German language school and maintains both a school for German dance and the language school.
But if you came to the biergarten expecting polka, blonde girls in braids and dirndl dresses, and giant cups full of beer, then you would have been disappointed.
Well, except for the beer.
The biergarten was essentially an outdoor festival, featuring food, drinks, and the live music of Bill McGoldrick’s acoustic duo. Each of the biergartens have a theme, and this one’s was rock and blues. The band played hit songs like Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” and “Treasure,” as well as a few slow songs, like “Blue Skies,” to give couples the opportunity for slow dancing.
This year’s biergarten themes include “Reggae,” “Oldies and Rock,” and a “Blues Night.” Why not the traditional oom-pah music we associate with German culture? Well, club president Andreas Becker explained that while they keep it traditional for Oktoberfest and Sommerfest (which, incidentally, is scheduled for this weekend), with the biergartens, they try to appeal to a younger demographic.
“We’re going to have a reggae biergarten, we have a jazz biergarten. We have the summer and Oktoberfests with oom-pah bands, but the problem is young people want to have a little bit of diversity. They don’t want it to always be oom-pah music. I like it, you might like it, but we have to offer something for everybody, and that’s what we do here.”
That appeared to have worked on Friday, as the picnic tables underneath the outdoor structure were packed with twenty and thirty-somethings, while the large fields and woods surrounding the club were filled with little kids.
The events also act as fundraisers, raising money for the club’s schools. But the events are not exclusive to club members - they are open to the public. Becker noted that, while the Oktoberfest and Sommerfest events are far larger (last year’s Oktoberfest featured 10,000 visitors, while the Sommerfest featured 5,000), the biergartens are increasing in number. Likely because the money is going to a good cause.
“We do this regularly every year. We start in May, and then it goes until September. It’s open to the public, and we think it’s a nice way to get people together,” explained Becker. “We serve good food here, and we are just lucky to have this facility, this is really unique. For us, it’s a fundraiser. We have two schools; we have the dance school where people learn German dance, but we also have a school for kids that’s the biggest German Saturday school in the United States. We have nearly 500 kids there every weekend, so it’s a big organization and this is only really a little part of it. But we love it. It’s a great event, and it’s getting more and more popular.”
So, while you will have a chance to hear traditional music and wear traditional German clothes at this weekend’s upcoming Sommerfest, if you’re looking for a more traditional - but not quite so traditional - good time, you could do far worse than one of the club’s biergartens.
BSV Sommerfest is scheduled for Saturday, June 8, from noon to 11 p.m., and Sunday, June 9, from noon to 6 p.m., at Boylston Schul-Verein, located on 109 in Walpole.