Oktoberfest celebrates Cape Girardeau's German roots, benefits University Players theater group

Friday, October 9, 2009

In 1870, Col. George C. Thilenius scooped the first shovel of dirt at his lot at Longview, near his full-production winery. This site was to become his home, modeled after a home his sister and her husband had built in St. Louis several years before.

Thilenius, a German immigrant, was the mayor of Cape Girardeau at the time construction began, and his influence on local culture and history from his arrival in 1856 to his death in 1910 was marked by many accomplishments, most visibly the beautiful house known as Longview.

On Sunday, Col. Thilenius' great-granddaughter Marjorie Thompson will host an Oktoberfest at Longview to benefit the University Players, the student theater group at Southeast Missouri State University.

The players will perform, serve authentic German cuisine and give tours of the historical home.

"This is a day of celebration for Cape Girardeau's German heritage," said Audrey Stanfield, president of the University Players and great-great-great granddaughter of Col. Thilenius. "A lot of people are familiar with the French heritage of Cape, but usually associate the German with areas further north. We want to celebrate our local and regional German heritage together on this day."

The front of the house at 1616 Whitener St. features a large staircase on the porch. The Cape River Heritage Museum donated chairs that will be set up on the lawn, and the University Players will be performing on the stairs between 4:30 and 5:15 p.m.

"We have a variety show of sorts, with performances ranging from musical theater to dance numbers and skits. We even have some tap pieces," Stanfield said. "We're aiming for a German-themed musical variety show."

After the entertainment, guests will be able to partake in some traditional foods.

Workers from Celebrations will be helping with food preparations, featuring authentic German fare, and the Rose Bed Inn will be bringing in traditional German potato salad.

Guests will also be able to take a room-by-room tour of the privately owned Longview., which has remained a family residence since it was built.

The house features a library, toy room, wine cellar, music room and Civil War-era antiques.

During the tour and meal, the Jerry Ford Combo will perform.

Thomson plans to donate all of the proceeds from the Oktoberfest to the University Players Professional Development fund.

"For our students, getting to auditions and professional workshops can be very costly," Stanfield said. "Once you figure in travel expenses and registration costs on a student's budget, it's sometimes impossible for the students to be able to go. These monies help the students with these expenses so they can pursue exciting opportunities."

In addition to the entertainment, food and tour, there will be a silent auction. Donations for the silent auction include items from several downtown merchants as well as original artwork by local artist Craig Thomas.

The Octoberfest will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday on the Longview lawn and inside the home.

Reservations can be made by calling Thompson at 334-3802 or Stanfield at 919-608-8690 but are not required. Tickets are $25 for the public and $20 for Southeast students, faculty and staff.

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