While visiting the first Seymour Oktoberfest 45 years ago, Howard Wente came across a card table set up along West Second Street.

The Sertoma Club of Jackson County was selling collectible steins to commemorate the new festival in the city.

Wente was one of nearly 400 people who bought one that year. They sold for $5.

“They badgered me until I bought it,” Wente said, smiling.

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He later joined Sertoma and became the one behind the table selling steins.

Sertoma later upgraded to a popup camper and since 2001 has operated inside a concessions trailer, adding pilsner glasses, shot glasses and coffee mugs to the collectible options.

Wente said he has liked working the booth and seeing people each year at the festival.

“One time, I was sitting here, and a lady came up and she said, ‘You don’t know me,’ and I said, ‘Yes, I do. You were in my class in school, but I haven’t seen you for 40 years,'” Wente said. “She said, ‘I’ve lived in California.'”

Over the years, Wente has continued to buy steins. Under the Oktoberfest logo is “Seymour, Indiana” and the year. People also have the option to have their number written in permanent marker on the bottom.

“I’ve got a lot of them at home,” Wente said. “Maybe the last couple of years I didn’t get one.”

Besides being a collectible item, Wente said the steins are popular because people know the proceeds benefit Sertoma’s work, which includes the Christmas Miracle project that provides Christmas gifts to Jackson County children in need.

“I really enjoy Christmas Miracle, getting the gifts and delivering and seeing the kids that really need it,” he said.

This year, for the first time, a portion of the proceeds will benefit another worthy cause, the Don and Dana Myers Cancer Center in Seymour. The center’s logo and a purple ribbon, symbolizing all types of cancer, are on the flip side of the traditional Oktoberfest logo.

Last year, the Indiana bicentennial logo was placed on the steins. All of the proceeds, however, benefited Sertoma.

“We sold out last year and actually had to order 30 extra, so we thought, ‘Well, people kind of liked having that extra thing on there. What could we do to put on it, what could we do to maybe help somebody else?'” said Dan Davis, chairman of Sertoma’s Oktoberfest collectibles project.

“I think Mike Bobb and Greg O’Brien came up with, ‘What about the cancer center?'” Davis said. “Then we thought about the cancer center logo and the purple ribbon to let everybody feel included with it.”

Club members hope sales will increase with two causes benefiting from the project.

“We hope it goes well, we hope it helps the cancer center and if it does, we’ll take a look at doing (the cancer center) again or maybe somebody else,” Davis said.

In the early years, Sertoma had Louisville Stoneware make the steins.

Ralph Michael, a local architect who was a charter member of Sertoma, was heavily involved with starting the project.

“The club was looking around for some project to be a part of the new festival in town,” Davis said. “Somehow, we stumbled upon beer steins from Louisville Stoneware.”

As people purchased the steins, the bottom was numbered to encourage them to see them as a collectible and buy them year after year, Davis said. The person’s name and number were written on an index card, and as they returned each year, the year was noted on the card.

“You don’t have to get a number, but at the start, most people did,” Davis said. “We still assign new numbers if they want to do it.”

Last year, the last number was 772.

“So we’ve had 772 people sign up to buy them, but they are not all buying them now at the same time,” Davis said.

It has been common over the years for people to buy a stein as soon as the booth opens Thursday, which is the first of the three-day festival.

“They know their number, and they’ve already checked it before they left,” Davis said. “There are very much regulars, and they are real regular on when they come and get it.”

Sertoma is the only vendor that sells Oktoberfest collectibles, while the Seymour Noon Lions Club has sold official Oktoberfest apparel for several years.

“It’s their hometown, and they kind of like having a souvenir from the festival,” Davis said of what draws people to purchase the collectibles.

It also helps that their purchases benefit a good cause.

“There are people who I think clearly come because they know they are helping Christmas Miracle, they know we give out scholarships and they know we do other things like speech and hearing programs,” Davis said. “I think that’s part of it.”

Early on, the steins, which are about 8 inches tall, had more of a pottery look.

As cost increased, Sertoma began buying them from Winters Associates in Bloomington. The ceramic steins now look slicker.

This year, the price increased from $15 to $20.

Davis said three years ago, the club considered ending its Oktoberfest booth.

“It is not a huge moneymaker for us,” he said. “We decided that even though we weren’t making too much money at it, there is a public relations aspect of it, and we didn’t want to leave people with the collections high and dry. Then the Oktoberfest committee asked us to stay because they understand why we are here, too, so we have, and we plan to stay unless the prices just keep getting higher and higher.”

Another fundraiser for Christmas Miracle is the Sertoma Benefit Concert, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The event is set for 6 p.m. Nov. 22 at Pewter Hall in Brownstown and will feature Forrest Turner, Lonesome Crow Acoustic Show, Midnight Noon Music and James Dupré.

Throughout the years, the benefit concert, hosted by Adam and Kim Nicholson, has raised more than $45,000 for Christmas Miracle.

“It’s a nice fundraiser for us,” Davis said.

People also make cash donations for Christmas Miracle.

Ryan Begley, president of Sertoma, said it’s great to see the 25 club members come together to raise money for Christmas Miracle, including working the Oktoberfest booth.

“It definitely gives us good PR for the community,” he said. “As a club, we’re all in this together.”

If you go

What: 10th annual Sertoma Benefit Concert

When: 6 p.m. Nov. 22

Where: Pewter Hall, 850 W. Sweet St., Brownstown

Who: Performers include Forrest Turner, Lonesome Crow Acoustic Show, Midnight Noon Music and James Dupré

Other features: A cash bar, pizza from The Brooklyn Pizza Co., a silent auction, raffles and a 50/50 drawing

Tickets: $10; available at Pewter Hall and Knotts & Tangles in Brownstown, Bluebird Cafe in Vallonia and This Old Guitar Music Store and The Brooklyn Pizza Co. in Seymour

Proceeds: All money raised will go toward the Sertoma Club of Jackson County’s Christmas Miracle project, which provides gifts to Jackson County children in need

Information: Search for “Sertoma Benefit Concert 2017” on Facebook

At a glance

The Sertoma Club of Jackson County has been selling beer steins at the Seymour Oktoberfest all 45 years of the festival.

Over the years, the club has added other collectibles.

This year, steins and pilsner glasses are $20, and coffee mugs are $5. All have the Oktoberfest logo on them.

Proceeds benefit Sertoma’s Christmas Miracle project, which provides Christmas gifts to Jackson County children in need.

A portion of the stein sales will be given to the Don and Dana Myers Cancer Center. There is a cancer center logo and a purple ribbon on the steins.

Sertoma’s booth is along West Second Street in downtown Seymour. The festival runs through Saturday.

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.