Hildebrand Lane comes alive for fest | BUSINESS WITNESS

Extravagant bundles were being escorted to participating businesses on Hildebrand Lane.

By Elle Tatum

Extravagant bundles were being escorted to participating businesses on Hildebrand Lane.

Crimson, orange and yellow balloons, the colors of autumn, were a sure sign we were about to celebrate Bainbridge Island’s annual Oktoberfest, for the fourth time.

Though a picture-perfect, sunny day in early fall, the balloon lady assured me there was a bit of a breeze. She would know!

Oktoberfest is presented by the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce as one of its monthly After Hours events and is hosted by the Island Village and Hildebrand Lane merchants.  Started in 2009, the annual occasion is designed to draw focus on the businesses of the area.

Drawing an estimated 200-plus attendees,  participants collect “stamps” on their passport/tour maps as they visit, business-to-business, enjoying bratwurst and beer and entitling them a chance to win prize drawings.

As manager of Eyeland Optical at Bainbridge Eye Physicians, I understood we were to be in the music epicenter of the festivities this year. I was excitedly anticipating a four-five-member oom-pa-pa band, but at 4 p.m. a surprising scene began to unfold  outside our glass side doors.

A man looking like ZZ-Top in lederhosen began setting up orchestral shop in the courtyard!

In came this bearded fellow’s drums, followed by numerous chairs and music stands – a flurry of activity in this pre-party hour. I learned the courtyard soon would be filled.  “Will there be dancing?” I queried.

I was informed that the Hometown Band has upwards of 60 members and that 30 to 40 musicians were expected to perform for this occasion.

For the next hour the volunteer musicians of the Hometown Band arrived; one, two, three at a time, toting their instruments and dressed in their Oktoberfest finery!

Men were wearing lederhosen and white shirts with colorfully embroidered suspenders and ties, while the women were setting the stage in dirndl skirts, some with colorful, pocketed aprons, white puffy-sleeved blouses with velvet and wool vests, many with detailed floral embroidery. They sported dapper woolen-felt hats, tufted with feathers and often studded with decorative pin collections. All wore big smiles yet maintained the air of a serious mission as they prepared their instruments for this performance.

They had obviously been doing this together for some time. I later learned the band started 30 years ago and many had been members for 15 years.

As the musicians played in earnest, the crowd which had gathered around the Hometown Band bobbed and tapped in time with the rhythm while dancing broke out amongst the party-goers. An enthusiastic couple danced in biking attire, complete with helmets, while, in sharp contrast, a family that had come dressed in authentic Bavarian attire, gave it a whirl. Mom’s grin was as fresh and bright as her red-and-white dirndl flipping and twirling on the courtyard in the late afternoon sunshine.

As foot traffic grew, a manageable flow was established within Eyeland Optical. Entering through the front doors of Bainbridge Eye Physicians on Hildebrand Lane, participants had their passports stamped, were treated to an eyeglass cleaning and received complimentary cleaning cloths and spray. For a while filled to capacity, neighbors paused to chat with one-another and snack on pecan bites before exiting the glass double doors of Eyeland Optical onto the courtyard and the party.

A short two hours after the music had begun, Oktoberfest was over for 2012.

As dusk fell, I reluctantly picked up the scattered plastic cups and napkins, feeling a bit like the lone hostess upon departure of her final guest, filled with the still-fresh memory of the festive interlude.

Thinking forward to next year’s celebration, I resolved I would dress in authentic Bavarian attire.

What a fine celebration had been enjoyed on Bainbridge Island this evening! At 7:45 p.m. I locked up the shop and took notice of the clean, quiet stillness of the neighborhood, not a trace of the tubas and whirling dirndls of such a brief time ago.

Business Witness is a new, occasional feature that will appear in the Bainbridge Island Review. Have an idea for a future topic? Contact Brian Kelly at bkelly@bainbridgereview.com.