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  • Megann Horstead

Das Liben ist wuderbar: Oktoberfest brings bit of Germany to Mokena


The sounds of traditional German tunes were heard throughout the hallways at Clarendale of Mokena.

The senior living community came together Thursday, Oct. 19, to celebrate its inaugural Oktoberfest.

No matter one’s heritage, Gilhoolys took everyone to Germany as they played music for the crowd.

Residents sat next to one another with beer and sparkling apple cider in hand to celebrate Oktoberfest.

“We like to do themed events as often as possible,” said Julie Mangiaracina, director of life enrichment for Clarendale of Mokena. “Residents get excited about that. We get all dressed up, we decorate, we have themed food, [and we have] entertainment. Oktoberfest is just a great way to celebrate the fall.”

The celebration provided residents with an opportunity to enjoy pierogies, potato pancakes, sausages, skewers, some side dishes and dessert.

Mike Bershano, of New Lenox, said he is glad he decided to come out for the festivities.

“Most of the people that I eat dinner with and all that was there,” he said.

Bershano said Clarendale of Mokena’s Oktoberfest did not disappoint.

“I have [attended other Oktoberfest celebrations] but nothing as [elaborate,]” he said. “They really get a group together, and they’re all enthusiastic.”

Bershano said it is difficult to pinpoint his favorite part, though there is a lot to like about it.

“I can’t really say,” he said. “I enjoy singing; I enjoy music. I just enjoy the whole thing.”

Bershano added that he is definitely looking forward to celebrating Oktoberfest next year.

There was some excitement leading up to Oktoberfest, Mangiaracina said.

“It’s been on the calendar for the month, and we’ve been kind of hyping it up and getting excited about it for the month, and then Tari—my life enrichment coordinator—her and I both dressed up,” Mangiaracina said. “When we came dressed today, it got [residents] more excited to be part of the event.”

Mangiaracina said the event’s turnout was positive, and she anticipates this celebration becoming an annual tradition.

Early in the event, people took to the floor to dance, while others sat and sang along to the music.

Jeanette Danaowitz, of Matteson, said celebrating Oktoberfest took her down memory lane.

“It was a long, long time ago,” she said. “My husband was German, and we went to [Oktoberfest] once with his family. It was nice—it was very nice—but the songs [the entertainer] sang they brought back a lot of memories for me.”

Danaowitz sat and listened to the music provided during the celebration.

“We had some Irish girls sitting right next to me, and they were humming some of the German tunes, just like I was,” she said. “You don’t have to be German to enjoy it. Oktoberfest, we can just enjoy it—the music and the people.”

Danaowitz said even if for only one day, Oktoberfest did a nice job bringing Germany to Clarendale of Mokena.

“It was what you’d expect,” she said. “The music—with all that type of music—and then the refreshments they had was lovely. That kind of went along with the Oktoberfest theme, which was real nice. [Clarendale of Mokena staff] try very hard to make things nice for us. I mean—yes, most of us [residents] are here because we have to be when we can’t be in different places, and yet they try to make it happen for us, which is nice.”

#Mokena

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