LOWELL - A few tears were shed in the kitchen on Buell Island Thursday, but it wasn't because the ladies were upset about having to work for Octoberfest.
Their eyes watered as they sliced 100 pounds of onions to be sauteed with kielbasa and bratwurst Saturday and Sunday during the 36th annual Octoberfest.
That came after more than a dozen volunteers throughout the week cooked 70 pounds of bacon and prepared 50 gallons of sauce for German potato salad. As it has been for every year but the very first, the food preparation was overseen by Lowell resident Mildred Schwendeman.
Photo by?Evan Bevins
Pomeroy residents, from left, Darryl Swartz, Dennis Musser and Ken McCullough on Thursday set up the tent under which they’ll sell novelties, knives, blankets and other items during Octoberfest Saturday and Sunday on Buell Island in Lowell.
"I enjoy doing it. I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't," she said.
Schwendeman was quick to note it wouldn't be possible without the help of reliable volunteers, like Waterford resident Fay Heiss.
"She does the work of six people," Schwendeman said.
The menu will once again feature that German potato salad, chicken cooked over an open flame, reubens, cabbage rolls, cream puffs, funnel cakes and all the familiar items associated with the annual tradition.
"It's kind of nice when you're here both days 'cause you get to sample all of the food. You don't have to pick and choose," said Lowell resident Julie Wilson, who will be selling Avon products at the festival for the 15th year.
Like the menu, Octoberfest itself will be much the same as in previous years, said Terry Schwendeman, Mildred's son and festival chairman.
"We stay with what works," he said.
Flea market Chairwoman Judy Gilham said Octoberfest usually averages 110 vendors but she's expecting more this year. Some new additions will be satellite TV package sales and flu shots provided by Walgreen's.
But the vendors who bring one of the signature sale items - tube socks - won't be in attendance.
"They won't be here this year, for health reasons," Gilham said, adding that they hope to be back for future Springfests and Octoberfests.
The proceeds from Octoberfest stay on the island, Terry Schwendeman said, going toward upkeep and repairs, as well as donations to programs like Pee Wee football. There haven't been as many projects as usual lately, though.
"It's getting harder and harder to make the money with the price of everything going up," Terry Schwendeman said.
While money is being saved for matching funds for grants to pave the circle around the island and get new playground equipment, organizers are getting some help from a couple of local Boy Scouts.
Julie Wilson's son, Seth, 17, is working on his Eagle Scout project, putting new mulch around the playground equipment on the island. The mulch will be deeper than what's there now and impact-rated for the height of the equipment, he said.
"I live in Lowell and I've seen kids play over there and I just want them to be safe," said Seth Wilson, who will be collecting donations for the project at his mother's tent.
Meanwhile, 16-year-old Patrick Arnold-McKinney's Eagle Scout project involves installing a wheelchair-accessible swing at the playground.
Both Scouts were originally hoping to have their projects done in time for this weekend's festival, but the timing didn't work out and they've been delayed slightly to make sure the area isn't disrupted during the event. Both say they hope to get started soon after the festival is over.