The brat pack: Germans celebrate Oktoberfest in Brooklyn Heights

A tradition: Henry Leschke travels from Vermont each year to play the button box at Zion German Evangelical Lutheran Church’s Oktoberfest celebration in Brooklyn Heights.
Photo by Jolene Siana

It was Bavaria in Brooklyn!

Members of Brooklyn Heights’ German community partied at Zion German Evangelical Lutheran Church’s annual Oktoberfest celebration on Saturday — a tradition so beloved that one man comes all the way from the nation’s northern reaches each year to provide some Teutonic tunes.

“It’s a fun tradition,” said Henry Leschke, who has traveled from Vermont for the past seven years to play the schifferkalvier — or buttonbox — accordion for the festivities. “They don’t even have to make a date with me, I already know in advance.”

Around 200 people dressed to the neins in dirndls and lederhosen and hit the Henry Street house of worship for beer, brats, and plenty of dancing to Leschke’s music.

The 161-year-old religious institution originally helped German immigrants get settled in the New World, and guests say the annual volksfest is still a wunderbar way to mix and mingle with others who share their heritage

“It was great meeting other members of the local Brooklyn German community and getting to know them a little bit better,” said neighborhood resident Amy Todenhagen.

But for Leschke, the humble local gathering still doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing.

“We don’t get close,” said the musician, who immigrated from Germany 58 years ago. “They have a 20-piece band over there in the big tent.”

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

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