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By Miriam Raftery

20, 2008 (El Cajon) -
Over 800 people flocked to an Oktoberfest celebration
hosted by El Cajon’s Elks Lodge 1812, a tradition that dates back to

“I started the Oktoberfest,” said Giselle Howard (photo, left),
who was also the festival’s first Oktoberfest Queen.   “This
is why every year, they honor me.”  Still radiant at 86, Howard
wore her original dress and tiara as a fellow Elk pushed her wheelchair in
the Oktoberfest Parade.  The aromas of steak and bratwurst simmering on
a barbecue filled the air, along with scents of potato pancakes and other traditional
German fare.

El Cajon Mayor Mark Lewis donned a chicken hat to march
in Elks' Oktoberfest parade.

Alpen Musikanten led the parade, providing musical accompaniment that included
tuba, trumpet, flugelhorn, and drums.  Mayor Mark Lewis, wearing a chicken
hat, marched in the parade along with Elks leaders in German costumes hoisting
beer steins.

“We’ve been playing together for 20 years,” said Hans Reuter
of Alpine, a retired aerospace engineer in the band.  “We come from
all over San Diego.  We played at La Mesa’s Oktoberfest for 14 years
and got replaced by a rock band!”  Here, however, the crowd seems
delighted with the festive music.  Other members of the band include a
retired Naval officer on tuba, drummer Roger Krauel, a Superior Court Judge,
and Alan Adams, organizer of an upcoming Dixieland Jazz Thanksgiving event
in Mission Valley.

Exalted Ruler Kathleen Monsees savors Oktoberfest celebration.

The days of Elks lodges as all-male bastions are long gone.  The El Cajon
club not only has a woman as its Exalted Leader, but has also fully integrated
some of its most traditional rituals—including the annual keg tap and
beer-drinking contest. 

“This year, we had a girl win the girls’ contest and a guy
win the guys’ contest.  Then we had the winning girl challenge the
winning guy – and she won!”  said Bill Kloor.  “I
never saw anybody drink beer so fast!”

LARC leader Patty Cody sells stuffed toys to benefit
retarded citizens.

“This is our major fundraiser,” Kathleen Monsees, Exalted Ruler
of the lodge, informed East County Magazine.  “We use the
money for veterans’ programs, youth programs, and scholarships.”   The
Elks offer academic and vocational scholarships, as well as a criminal justice
scholarship in honor of a police officer who tackled the gunman in the Granite
Hills High School shooting.   El Cajon’s Elks Lodge is one
of the few places also offering vocational scholarships for adults, not just
high school students. 

The local Elks club recently hosted a law enforcement night to honor police
officers and has a Veterans’ Dance planned.  Some Elks events, such
as an upcoming Halloween dinner dance, are for members only—but the annual
Oktoberfest is open to the public, with plenty of fun for families including
a free kids’ area with jumping and climbing play equipment.

Elks funds also benefit the Ladies Auxiliary for Retarded Citizens (LARC).  LARC
helps sponsor a job training center and a second center where retarded individuals
can participate in self-enrichment projects such as making items or growing
vegetables in greenhouses.  “There is no funding for this whatsoever,” said
LARC president Patty Cody, manning a stuffed animal booth at Oktoberfest.  “My
philosophy is it’s not the quantity of life, it’s the quality.  We
provide smiles!”

Editor Miriam Raftery’s son was the recipient of state and local
Elks scholarships which helped enable him to attend the University of California.

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Oktoberfest is one of my

Oktoberfest is one of my favorite festivals... Sibiu is waiting for "Little Oktoberfest". That is the Romanian version of the well-known beer festival held each year in Munich.

One of my favorites

Oktoberfest is one of my favorite festivals to travel to. I love experiencing the culture and tasting the local fare. I hope I will have time to take off work this year so that I can make it to the festival again. HSA

I was visiting my family in

I was visiting my family in El Cajon during oktoberfest(flew out from Gettysburg)and I must say I had a ton of fun, the only downer was that the halloween dance was for members only and the kids were a bit disappointed since their use to the festivities in Gettysburg during this time of the year.If your ever in the us during halloween, try visiting the gettysburg ghosts, it is so much fun!