GLOVERSVILLE - Members of the Concordia Club are taking steps to re-energize the club's German traditions, community involvement and entertainment programs.
A noticeable sign of the club's efforts will appear Saturday, when the club will bring back one of its old traditions, the Oktoberfest. The event, which hasn't occurred at the Concordia Club in years, will offer the public a day of German music, food and beer, among other attractions.
"In the past, membership was so interested in the entertainment events that the venue would be packed with active members and that's not even including those from the outside community that would attend," said club Historian Karen Smith. "I believe the current members are trying to revive the entertainment tradition within the club, which can be seen with the return of this year's Oktoberfest."
A sign advertises the Concordia Club’s upcoming Oktoberfest at the pavilion on the club’s grounds. (The Leader-Herald/Levi Pascher)
The Concordia Club, which has more than 500 members and has its property on West Fulton Street Extension, donates regularly to the Boy Scouts, Mohawk Valley Chorus, Little League, post-prom parties, Office for the Aging and the Meals on Wheels program.
The club generates money from membership dues, renting out the club's pavilion for events, renting storage space in the winter under the pavilion, a pull-tabs game of chance and a bar that's open to Concordia members.
The club, first founded in 1889, used to have a successful gymnastics team and chorus, and it served as the primary meeting place for immigrants from Germany when they arrived in the community.
However, in the late 1990s, the Singing Societies Chorus at the Concordia made the decision to disband because the number of participating singers slowly dwindled from nearly 100 members to just 20 over the course of 75 years, Smith said. Their trophies are in the club building, representing the variety of competitions they won over the years.
As the membership grew, they met in various areas in the Gloversville area, but on April 1, 1897, the club moved into the property which it had purchased at the corner of West and West Fulton Street, the site of the Upper Deck bar today.
In 1910, the property now known as Concordia Park on West Fulton Street Extention was purchased for use as a summer clubhouse. The building was later enlarged, and by the early 1970s the property in the city was sold and Concordia Park became the home of the Concordia Singing Society. Over the years, there have been clubs within the club, two of which still meet:?the Ladies' Chorus and Auxiliary and the Edelweiss Club.
Originally, membership in the Concordia Club was for those of German descent exclusively, but over the years, the club has evolved to allow any man who wants to join and is sponsored by a member to do so. The club does not have female members, but women come to the club as guests and participate in programs.
Club President John Tallon said for a member to serve on the executive board, he must have been an active part of the club for a minimum of three years.
Tallon said the Concordia Club has improved its venue with a new roof on its main building a year ago and will host a New Year's Day brunch.
The club features Friday night dinners for members, holds an annual children's Christmas party and hosts a Breakfast in the Woods event in June.
The original Oktoberfest was proposed to the Executive Board in 1979 by Gloversville resident Guy Borgolini. It was his vision to begin the tradition of a true German Oktoberfest in the city for years to come.
For the next three years, Borgolini and other Concordia members held the event in tents during the fall season before deciding to take a year off to build the pavilion, which holds 1,200 people.
The pavilion was erected by members who volunteered their time. Concordia volunteers were able to finish the project in time for the 1983 Oktoberfest.
Unfortunately, interest in ethnic festivals began to dwindle over the years, and the club decided to stop hosting Oktoberfest in the late 1990s, Smith said.
This year, some of the newer members suggested having a one-day festival.
The Concordia Club will bring back Oktoberfest Sept. 22.
The German cultural celebration will be open to the public at the club. The celebration will start at noon and finish around midnight.
Oktoberfest is a German festival that celebrates the new brew or wine of the year, said club Entertainment Chairman Russel Dettenrieder.
The event will take place rain or shine and feature live German music, food and beer. Oktoberfest will cost $5 per person for admission and will include free parking. Children age 15 and younger will be able to attend for free.
A traditional German band from Albany, the Liebhagens, will kick off the event with live music at 2 p.m. At 5 p.m., Tony's Polka Band will take the stage and play cultural music, including songs from its recent album, "Come and Listen."
Tony's Polka Band won the 2003 Best Polka Band Competition at the American Accordionists' Association Convention in Philadelphia.
The headlining act of the night will be the rock band the Karg Brothers, from Johnstown.
There will be a variety of craft vendors as well as food vendors throughout the day. The Concordia Club event will not allow any outside beverages or food or coolers.
"We really have to see how this event goes to determine if we will continue Oktoberfest the following year," said Tallon. "If it's successful, we will likely continue it in the future."
Smith said the original Oktoberfest that spanned three days was too expensive for such low attendance to continue, so the club is trying this smaller version to see how it is accepted by the community.
Additional information about membership or the Oktoberfest can be obtained by calling the Concordia Club at 725-4813.
Levi Pascher covers Gloversville news and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.