By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
If there was any doubt that Quincyans wanted to see Oktoberfest revived, those concerns were swept away as crowds streamed to the venue on York Street between Ninth and Tenth.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Tracy Orne event cochairman for the Rotary Club of Quincy.
Hundreds of people got in line to take tours of the Dick’s Brewery buildings that loom on each side of the street and the caverns that connect them beneath the street. Samples of different types of beer were offered to those taking the tour and vendors sold home brewing products in one of the buildings as well.
Outside, the crowds listened to polka music and German tunes early. The Cheeseburgers played rock and more modern fare later in the evening.
“When you talk about celebrating German heritage, you’ve got to have a German band and the brats and your favorite beverage. It all goes hand in hand,” said Jeff Schueking, a member of the Heidelberg German Band.
Brats, sauerkraut, German potato salad and other items were on the menu at food stands.
Orne said the Rotary Club wants to continue Oktoberfest as an annual event. She added that it depends on who owns the Dick’s brewery building in the future.
“We’re certainly blessed that Ron Wellman has allowed us to use this facility, Orne said.
Marcia Cray, a long-time member of the now defunct German Village Society, was pleased with what the Rotary Club did and she hopes to see them keep the festival going.
“Quincy has such a strong German heritage it would be a shame to see it go away,” Cray said.
U.S. Census figures show more than 10,500 Germans settled in Quincy between 1840 and 1870 and at least 2,000 more settled in Adams County, outside of Quincy. By 1870, 43 percent of Quincy’s 24,052 residents claimed German ancestry.
Dick Brothers Brewery was launched in 1857 and grew to be the largest brewery in this part of the Midwest. Prohibition and then World War II created insurmountable problems for the business, which went bankrupt in 1951.
Cray told a group of friends about the brewery’s history as she stood in a grain storage room.
“Quincy is lucky to have this preserved and people are astounded — those that have never, ever been here before. A lot of people had no idea that this existed,” Cray said.
The Dick Brothers brought their beer brewing know how from Germany and brought in the skilled workers they needed to build their business.
Cray said the brewery’s builders had to find a spring to provide pure water for brewing. Then they dug out tunnels and finally built the huge brewery buildings over the top of the caverns.
Orne said Rotary Club members have preparing for Oktoberfest for about a year and had been thinking about it ever since the German Village Society disbanded.
The Rotary Club launched Strassenfest in 1970 in the State and Eighth area. The event grew and was taken over by the German Village Society, which re-named the event Germanfest. That event lapsed in 2012 when the German Village Society disbanded.
Now the event has come full circle with the Rotary Club stepping back in to keep the tradition alive.
“I think it’s excellent,” Cray said. “I’m very proud of them and I’m thankful to them.”