The Strudel Queen

Please join the Alice Ferguson Foundation for its 32nd annual Oktoberfest on October 6th from 1-6pm at Hard Bargain Farm.  For the past 25 years our Cultural Heritage Coordinator, Doris Sharp, has been an integral part in shepherding this beloved festival. We recently sat down with Doris to learn more about the history of Oktoberfest at Hard Bargain Farm and how she makes this event so special every year. Read our interview with the “Strudel Queen” below.

Tell us about yourself and what you do at the Foundation.

I started to work part time at the Foundation in 1987.  The first assignment was cataloguing the books in the Ferguson collection, then I was working as a naturalist, publications specialist, head gardener of the formal gardens, coordinating Theater in the Woods and Concert in the Woods and many other tasks—in essence I was wearing many hats (sometimes the hat rack was too short!).

What do you know about the history of Oktoberfest at the Foundation?

Our Oktoberfestmeister, Stafford Allison, a Moyaone community member, presented the idea of Oktoberfest as a fundraiser to then Executive Director Kay Powell. That was thirty-two years ago. In the same community some neighbors were members of the Alt Washingtonia Schuhplattlers and that group performed at the first Oktoberfest and ever since. I’ve been involved with the event for 25 of those years.

How has the annual Oktoberfest grown over the years you’ve been involved?

When I started it was a relatively small community event.  With more and better advertising and reaching out to the DC metro area, the audience grew over the years. The record number was close to 1500 visitors.

What kinds of things will guests find at Oktoberfest and what makes it so special?

Oktoberfest means beer, bratwurst, potato salad and sauerkraut. And that is what we offer at Hard Bargain Farm.  All homemade! And not to forget the ‘real’ strudel now! (For the last few years we have been offering vegetarian chili as an alternative food.) We have a “Country Store” where people can buy all kinds of goodies—homemade jams, cookies, brownies and breads etc.

Oktoberfest is a lot of fun. Besides wonderful food and imported beer (Spaten from Munich), the Alt Washintonia Schuhplattlers are sporting original Bavarian costumes and perform Bavarian and Austrian dances and music (accordion, guitars, dulcimer, tuba, alphorns, even a saw!).

One of the favorite features of Oktoberfest is your homemade strudel.  How did you become the Strudel Queen?

At the 35th anniversary of the Alice Ferguson Foundation Stafford Allison approached me and said, “You know, we serve all that excellent and delicious food and then there is that stuff they call apple strudel…”  (It was a kind of apple cake).  He didn’t say any more and just looked at me.  I simply said, “Okay.” Well, I have been baking apple strudels for the Oktoberfest ever since! Stafford generously provides his space and professional ovens to do that and I have an outstanding crew of helpers. Each year we bake about 75 strudels using four bushels of apples that need to be peeled and cut into pieces.  The strudel filling is made totally from scratch. From year to year our visitors are looking forward to it.

What do you enjoy most about Oktoberfest?

Oktoberfest brings people and cultures together and it gives a glimpse of the original Oktoberfest in Munich on a very small scale. (six  million people descend on Munich over the course of two weeks.)

At the end of the day, the Schuhplattlers invite the guests onto the stage to dance with them, which is very popular with everyone, especially with the children.

What is your favorite memory of an Oktoberfest?

My favorite memory is when my kids went on stage to dance with the Schuhplatters.  They were too shy so I had to coax them.  But then they had lots of fun.

What do you look forward to this year? 

First, of course, I hope the weather will be on our side.  Then everything will fall into place and a good time will be had by all—Hard Bargain style.