This weekend, the German Club of Anchorage and the Anchorage Downtown Partnership will be hosting the 51st Annual Oktoberfest and this year attendees can expect to see a few changes to the schedule.
“This year we took a gigantic step forward with changing Oktoberfest. It might go out with a bang or a maybe a whimper but I am hoping for a bang,” chuckled German Club of Anchorage President Volker J. Hruby who has been involved with the club for nearly 40 years.
Featuring the inaugural Oktoberfest Pub Crawl as well as a new outdoor location in Anchorage Town Square, this year’s celebration promises to be the bang Hruby is hoping for in his last year as club President.
“I got involved with the German Club of Anchorage probably around the early 80s and since then, I have held every position there is within the club. I’ve been Vice President at least 10 times already and I’ve been President for the last three years – but after this year, I am retiring,” said Hruby as he carefully opened a manila folder containing tattered historical documents from the club.
Originally incorporated in 1966, the German Club of Anchorage works to unite people with a common interest in the German language, history, culture and music. For Hruby, this mission has been a passion project to pay homage to his roots.
“I was born in the Czech Republic, but I was born as an Austrian. At the that time, the city was called Nikolsburg but now it’s called Mikulov so on my birth certificate is a city that doesn’t even exist anymore,” explained Hruby. “I was born in 1944 and at that time my mom and aunts used to cross the border into Vienna frequently because things were tough in Nikolsburg at the end of the war.”
Swaddled in blankets, the infant Hruby would make the multi-day journey from Nikolsburg, Czech Republic to Vienna, Austria with his aunt to smuggle goods across the border.
“When my aunt wanted to cross the border, she would use me like a passport of sorts because the soldiers would see a woman with a baby and would feel badly for her so they just let her cross. But she was bringing stuff back from Vienna to the Czech Republic to help the family,” Hruby said.
In 1957, Hruby would cross another major geographic border as he immigrated to Staten Island.
“My first inclination when I got off that airplane – it must have been 95 degrees outside – was I want to go back,” Hruby said with a twinkle in his eye.
Two years later, his family would move one final time to Alaska where they have remained ever since. Although he has assimilated into American culture, Hruby has never forgotten where he came from and has strove to keep traditional German culture a major part of the club’s Oktoberfest.
“Of course we have beer and that’s a big part of the celebration but we also will have traditional bell ringing, bench dancers, live music and dancing,” said Hruby with a smile. “My favorite part has always been listening to the music and seeing people dance - you will probably see me on the dance floor.”
*Originally published by the Anchorage Press