Thursday, October 4th, 2012
By Margie Wuebker
Artists keep tradition going for beer tray race winners
  MINSTER - The 38th annual Oktoberfest is expected to draw thousands of people to Minster Machine Centennial Park this weekend.
They come to experience a tradition started in 1975 as a means of honoring the community's rich German heritage.
Teams entered in the 2 p.m. beer tray relay on Saturday have their sights set on another tradition - hand-carved and hand-painted prizes.
Local woodworker Tony Beckman carves walnut beer trays that are then painted by former neighbor and artist Pam Sommer of Vandalia. Sommer also paints mugs and wooden shoes that go to the second- and third-place teams.
Sommer has been involved in painting the awards for nearly three decades.
Tom Quinlin, another local woodcarver, initially made the trays. Following his death in 1996, the committee asked Sommer for help in finding another carver to continue the tradition. She recommended Beckman and the rest is history.
Quinlin always carved five trays - four for the four-member winning team and one for himself - creating a legacy in the process. Beckman studied those pieces before embarking on his first Oktoberfest project.
"Tom always carved the trays with scalloped edges," he said. "I decided to add a center design that changes each year."
Past designs include the landmark gazebo, a beer mug with a frothy head, wooden shoes, tulips and even the Budweiser Clydesdales. In 2006, he carved two trays with a Bavarian lass in a dirndl skirt and two with a lad in lederhosen.
Sommer paints on the year and other details, such as tulips and greenery.
Beckman this year carved a festive beer stein as the focal point leaving a blank in the center for a small painting. Sommer chose a picturesque landscape with a snow-topped mountain and a red brick house. Tiny tulips decorate the neatly manicured lawn.
"Germans like lots of color and designs," she said with a smile.  
Beckman admires Sommer's handiwork, explaining she leaves just enough wood unadorned to show its beautiful walnut grain.
He admits with a smile that the Oktoberfest trays take considerable time, especially when it comes to hollowing out the thick round circles he refers to as slugs.
"I tend to work slower than on other projects," he said.
Unlike his predecessor, Beckman traditionally carves just four trays for the annual beer tray relay sponsored by Precision Strip. However, he did make an extra one as a keepsake the year the famed Budweiser Clydesdale hitch came to town.
"My goal is to come up with a new German-themed design each year," he said. "Right now, I have nothing in mind, but something will come to me by next summer."

Minster Oktoberfest schedule:
Friday
•  6 p.m.- stands and arts and crafts show open
•  7:30-11:30 p.m. - The Klabberheads (gazebo)
•  8-11:30 p.m. - Free Rider (Spass Platz)
•  Midnight - stands close
Saturday
•  9:30 a.m. - car show registration (bowling alley parking lot)
•  10 a.m.-10 p.m. - arts and crafts show
•  10 a.m.-9 p.m. - A Walk Through History display (elementary school gym near church)
•  10 a.m. - Little Miss Oktoberfest contest (Knights of Columbus Hall)
•  11 a.m. - festival stands open
•  Noon - opening ceremonies (gazebo)
• 1 p.m. - Miss Oktoberfest contest (Spass Platz)
• 1-6 p.m. - Alte Kamerdam (gazebo)
• 2 p.m. - beer tray relay (Fourth Street)
• 3:30-7 p.m. - The Klabberheads (Spass Platz)
• 4 and 6 p.m. - Celebration of Our German Heritage Mass (St. Augustine Church)
• 6-10 p.m. - The Bier Band (strolling the grounds)
• 7-11 p.m. - Cincinnati Schnapps (gazebo)
•  7:30-11:30 p.m. - Freudemacher (Spass Platz)
• Midnight - stands close
Sunday
• 9:30 a.m. - Oktoberfest 10K Run
• 10 a.m.-5 p.m. - arts and crafts show
• 10 a.m.-6 p.m. - Walk Through History display (elementary school gym)
• 11 a.m. - festival stands open
•  2 p.m. - Oktoberfest parade
•  2-5 p.m. - Alte Kameraden (Spass Platz)
•  3:30-8 p.m. - Sorgenbrecher (gazebo)
•  6-8 p.m. - Freudemacher (Spass Platz)
•  8 p.m. - stands close
The majority of the events take place at Minster Machine Centennial Park on both sides of Fourth Street.
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