Kathleen Canedo, 39, and Amy Schirmer, 35, can't really explain the roots of their annual Oktoberfest celebration. They just wanted to throw a themed party and somewhat randomly settled on Oktoberfest, a Bavarian festival that revolves around beer.
"There's no real connection for us," says Kathleen, a 39-year-old freelance writer, "other than we like to drink beer, eat German food and say 'wiener' a lot."
Tonight, for their fifth Oktoberfest, they've set up semi-authentic-looking striped tents next to the pool in Kathleen and Tim Canedo's back yard in Oakton. Long tables are decorated with blue-and-white Bavarian flags and little plastic "windup hopping lederhosen," which were purchased, along with packages of sticky false mustaches, on Stupid.com. Invitations included the "Top 10 Oktoberfest Pickup Lines." No. 7: "What do you say we explore each other's hinterlands?"
The party gives Kathleen and Amy an excuse to sashay around in St. Pauli Girl-esque dresses, called dirndls. "We both love dressing up," says Kathleen,who is wearing a demure blue number tied with a purple apron. She bought it a few years ago on eBay, choosing not to go the "dirty dirndl" route, she says, pointing to her friend Nicole Bono, 27, who is wearing a short, poofy, leg-baring version and two ponytails tied with red ribbons.
"Nicole's our youngest friend who can still get away with that," sighs Kathleen, though her mother, Karen Steenberg, arrives in a low-cut, bright-red dirty dirndl that she happily admits is "inappropriate."
About 40 family members, friends and friends of friends drink from a keg of Spaten beer and eat a spread from German Gourmet in Falls Church: bratwurst, knackwurst, potato salad, two kinds of sauerkraut and hot pretzels. German oompah-pah music drifts from a CD player. Some of the male guests sport real lederhosen, also courtesy of eBay, and a few others -- including Tim -- wear T-shirts or aprons printed with a picture of lederhosen. Close enough.
Nobody's taking this too seriously, especially the hostesses, who are part of what they call the Dilettante Club, with Nicole and another friend, Amanda Lonsdale, 32. The four women started it, says Amy, when they realized "none of us has real hobbies because we have such short attention spans." So every month, they briefly learn a new "skill" -- pole dancing, belly dancing, rock climbing -- then go drinking.
This may help explain tonight's lebkuchen, which are large gingerbread-y cookies often served at Oktoberfests, traditionally printed with sweet sayings such as "Be Mine" or "I Like You."
"We do 'The Aristocrats' version of that," warns Kathleen, referring to the 2005 movie that revolves around the retelling of a dirty joke. The lebkuchen baked and handed out by the German-speaking Amanda are large and heart-shaped, with German phrases written in blue frosting. Many cookies include the word "wiener" and plenty of extraneous umlauts, and all are probably unprintable but one. It says: "Underpants."
Toward the end of the evening, the party thins out, but a core group remains in the (pseudo) German spirit. A few friends bring out Kathleen's karaoke machine, and Amanda, still wearing her Swiss Miss braids, starts in on Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." Then Amanda and her husband, Leon Morse, take an impromptu dip in the pool, followed by Karen, who dives in -- dirty dirndl and all.
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