History & tradition


Most local residents who take part in the Seymour Oktoberfest have some sort of tradition they observe at the downtown street festival every year.

It might be doing the chicken dance while the Schulhaus 4+3 band plays or stopping at the same food booth to consume a fish sandwich, tenderloin, a steak tip dinner or a funnel cake.

Many will pay their annual visit to the biergarten to visit with friends they haven’t seen since the last Oktoberfest and will go home with a Sertoma beer stein to display next to all the others they’ve collected throughout the years.

Those residents will have a chance to revisit those traditions when the 43th annual Seymour Oktoberfest takes place from Thursday to Oct. 3.

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For Fred and Louise Schlatterer of Seymour, the tradition long has been preparing hundreds of pounds of German potato salad to sell at the Knights of Columbus booth.

Although there are other German potato salads out there, the Schlatterers’ recipe, which comes from Louise’s aunt, is a big hit among festival-goers looking to satisfy their palates with a taste of German cuisine.

“I think it’s just the sauce, and it has bacon in it,” Louise Schlatterer said. “It’s sweet and tart with the vinegar but not sour like some.”

Every area of Germany has a different kind of potato salad, she added.

“Some just pour vinegar on it, but where my aunt was from, this is how they made it,” she said.

This will mark the 43rd year the Schlatterers have headed up making the German potato salad for the Oktoberfest. They are now passing the tradition on to their daughter and son-in-law, Joy and Robert Beaty.

“We’ve been doing it since the very beginning,” Louise Schlatterer said. “There were a couple of years in the early ’90s I couldn’t get vacation, so Larry Schulthies and his wife, Jackie, made it.”

They decided to pass the responsibility on to make sure the tradition continues.

“Somebody needs to do it before we aren’t able to,” Louise Schlatterer said.

The idea to make and sell the potato salad started with St. Ambrose Catholic Church’s pastor at the time, Father Robert J. Wilhelm.

“Father Wilhelm was the pastor at the church I grew up in, and he liked the German potato salad. My aunt made it, and he was very fond of it,” Louise Schlatterer said. “It’s addicting.”

When discussions began in the community about concudting the first Oktoberfest back in 1973, Wilhelm suggested that German potato salad, sausages, brats and sauerkraut be on the menu.

He knew Louise Schlatterer could make the potato salad.

“That’s how it all got started,” Fred Schlatterer added.

That first year, they didn’t know what to expect, so they kept the quantity down.

They started making the potato salad at their home in Redding Township, which worked early on.

“The first year we didn’t sell very much,” Louise Schlatterer said. “But the second year, it really took off.”

It was in such high demand some years, that often they would sell out.

“We made it every day and kept having to make more and more,” Fred Schlatterer said.

Not being able to make it fast enough to get it to town in time, the Schlatterers decided to move production closer to the festival.

One of the reasons it took a while to make is that they peeled the potatoes by hand.

“We’ve got a peeler now that does it for us,” Fred Schlatterer said. “We’ve got it down to where it’s a piece of cake. We just need people to help us cut the potatoes.”

This year, they will use 750 pounds of potatoes, which will get them through four days, Louise Schlatterer said.

They were able to work out a deal and purchase the potatoes from Jay C Plus in Seymour.

In the past, they’ve bought them at a farmers market down in Louisville. Fred Schlatterer even grew them himself for a few years.

“We like the russets,” Louise Schlatterer said. “They seem to work the best.”

The eggs are donated by Rose Acre Farms in Seymour and have been since day one, Fred Schlatterer added.

“They used to give us cases of eggs we had to crack ourselves,” he said. “Now it’s liquid, so it’s much easier.”

Since the Knights of Columbus operates as a nonprofit booth, they can start selling food a day earlier than the commercial vendors to help feed people setting up the festival and those who work downtown.

The Knights of Columbus booth is always at the end of West Second Street on the north side of the street.

Louise Schlatterer said the increase in booths and activities throughout the years has helped draw more people to the festival but has decreased their overall sales of potato salad.

“Before they had the commercial booths, it was just nonprofits, and we sold between 1,000 and 1,200 pounds because there wasn’t as many booths,” she said.

But Fred Schlatterer doesn’t think the variety of food offered now has hurt business too badly.

“We didn’t go down that much,” he said.

Over the years, Louise has kept track in notebooks of how many volunteers helped and who they were, how much potato salad they made, how much was sold and how much was left over at the end.

She has also recorded what the weather was like each day.

“When it’s hot out we don’t sell as much,” Louise said. “People like the hot potato salad when it’s cooler to help warm them up.”

Proceeds from the booth go back to the Knights of Columbus, which helps support St. Ambrose Catholic Church, the school and other community projects.

Prices at the booth have gone up only once in 43 years, Fred Schlatterer said.

Some of the proceeds also go as a donation to the Daughters of Isabella, a women’s auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus. Joy Beaty is president of the women’s group, which assists the Schlatterers in making the potato salad.

“We make so much, we can’t do it all on our own,” Fred Schlatterer said. “They come in and help chop the potatoes and onions and celery.”

Although they won’t officially start making the potato salad until early Wednesday morning, they have already been making preparations.

“We’ve been ordering food and picking up food, so it’s a longer process than just a couple of days,” Louise Schlatterer said.

Joy has been helping her parents make the potato salad as long as she can remember.

“I used to bring her in a playpen while we worked,” Louise Schlatterer said. Joy now recruits her husband, Robert Beaty, to help, too.

“I’ve just always come back and helped as I’ve gotten older,” Joy Schlatterer said. “It’s a family tradition. My sister dances, and during the Oktoberfest, I’m here from 7 o’clock in the morning until they stop doing the polka at night.”

With other family members and friends chipping in to help, Joy said it’s something she looks forward to every year.

“Oktoberfest really feels like family for us,” she said.

Come Saturday night, everyone is exhausted and glad another festival has come and gone.

“We’re tired and by Sunday. We lay on the couch and sleep,” Louise Schlatterer said.

Robert Beaty said what’s great about the potato salad is that it’s always the same.

“So many things come and go, but the potato salad never changes,” he said.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”If you go” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

What: 43rd annual Seymour Oktoberfest

Where: downtown Seymour streets

When: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Oct. 3


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