Tom Goodell sports his traditional Oktoberfest garb. His parents Mike and Liz Goodell were organizers for the event.
Tom Goodell sports his traditional Oktoberfest garb. His parents Mike and Liz Goodell were organizers for the event.
The sound of polka and the sight of men in fedoras and women dressed in dirndl dresses greeted those who came to celebrate Oktoberfest at Holy Family Parish in Southeast Portland Sept. 23.

Hundreds came to the party at the parish which included carnival games, a beer garden, a concert and German food. The event is in its second year. Last year, visitors faced cloudy skies and rain, but this year’s event showcased nothing but sunshine.

The Oktoberfest gave neighbors a chance to party and the opportunity to check out what Holy Family has to offer.

Ashley Heichelbech chats with her friend Chris Wojnar by the beer garden. Both are members of Holy Family and also live in the neighborhood. As they drink their beers, a lager and IPA respectively, they enjoy the festivities of the Oktoberfest.

“It’s so nice. It’s a great way to build community,” said Heichelbech, mom to two sons who attend Holy Family School.

Heichelbech said it was wonderful to have an event where the community can come and just get together and learn about the happenings in the parish, school and neighborhood.

Holy Family is looking for more opportunities to reach out to the community and Oktoberfest is one of those ways, added Wojnar. He and his family have been attending Holy Family for the past four years.

“It’s great to see parishioners but it’s also just great to see non-parishioners who are from other schools or other communities. It’s great to just open the doors of the parish up to the neighborhood as a whole,” said Wojnar.

As attendees entered the school’s gymnasium, they could play carnival games as well as sing karaoke, snap Oktoberfest-themed photos at a photo booth and paint pumpkins.

Children filled the school’s playground as parents looked on, holding their carnival prizes and beer garden treats.

For the parish, the fall festival presented a chance at outreach. “It’s sort of our way of evangelization, as well, because of the fact that we would like to make sure that we host opportunities for people to come together and for the people to know who we are as a parish and as a community,” said Father Rodel de Mesa, pastor at Holy Family.

“It’s community building. Everyone is welcome. And it’s kind of our mission really: [Welcome] everyone who comes to our door.”

Mike Goodell helped organize the event with his wife, Liz, and the Ford family in the parish. As a native Portlander, Goodell said he has gone to the city’s Greek Festival for years and he’s not Greek Orthodox.

“This is the same concept,” said Goodell. “No matter if you have no religious background, if you’re Orthodox, if you’re Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist. It doesn’t matter. We want the whole community to be here.”

One mark of success for the event, he notes, is seeing strangers.

“That means they’re probably not going to our parish. They’re probably not school families and they’re probably neighborhood people or friends of friends. And that’s what we really want to see. The more strange faces, the more successful [the event is],” said Goodell. And strangers were what he saw throughout the event.

“I told Father [de Mesa] when we were in the beer garden, ‘Look at this group. I don’t know most of these people. And that’s a good thing,’” he said. “The more unfamiliar faces, the better. That means our outreach is doing good.”

The final mark of success for the event was how many kegs they went through. The goal was to beat six and a half kegs which was consumed at last year’s event. By the night’s end, they surpassed their goal with nine kegs consumed.

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org