It was a wunderbar evening Thursday at the Highland Community Foundation’s Oktoberfest.
More than 140 guests filled the Indiana Welcome Center’s exhibit hall for the foundation’s inaugural event that celebrated Highland’s German heritage and raised money to develop a small walking park in a blighted area at 5th and 45th streets.
The group was organized in February 2011 to raise funds for projects and programs the town could no longer afford, said Adam Gawlikowski, a foundation board member and master of ceremonies.
The ultimate goal is to raise $500,000, including $350,000 to start an endowment fund and $150,000 to create the park.
A Munich-style feast of German favorites including wienerschnitzel, sauerbraten, sweet and sour cabbage and sauerkraut was served up by Jack and Billy Mix of St. John’s Comfort Catering.
Calumet Breweries donated a variety of beer and wine as well as soft drinks for the occasion while Ideations provided beer glasses embellished with the Highland Community Foundation logo.
Businesses and individuals from all over Northwest Indiana donated 40 items for the silent auction, and 10 sponsors helped underwrite Oktoberfest.
The strolling Frank K Duo of Illinois entertained guests with Frank Yakoubek, of Morton Grove, on the accordion dressed in lederhosen and Fran Rinaldo, of Glen Ellyn, attired in an authentic German dirndl providing vocals.
“It’s awesome that they can put on this kind of event,” said Suzy LaBarge, of Griffith, manager of Citizens Bank in Highland and president of the Highland Chamber of Commerce. “The Highland Community Foundation needs a lot of support. They are working to update Highland and make it beautiful.”
“Highland is a very unique community and the residents tend to support so many activities,” said Highland Police Chief Pete Hojnicki. “This is a reinvestment in the community.”
Sean Conley, a six-year resident of Highland, said the planned park is near his home in the Lake Hills subdivision.
“This project will beautify the neighborhood and benefit everyone,” said Conley.