The German-American Festival

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A Toledo tradition rolls on this weekend with the 46th German-American Festival, held for the 24th year at the Oak Shade Grove in Oregon.

And frankly, we wish we were there, because we could use a drink and some sauerkraut and Gemultlichkeit (fellowship and fun) this weekend. Memories of the German-American Festival are good ones. They got even better when I turned 18, but for a kid, it was always a colorful experience.

The first German-American Festival was held in 1966 at Raceway Park on Telegraph Road. It ran two days that year, Saturday and Sunday, August 27 and 28.

The sponsors were the Bavarian Sports Club, American Turners, Bavarian Benevolent Society, Teutonia Maennerchor, Greater Beneficial Union, Schwaben Verein and United Swiss, seven groups active in Toledo at the time (and, indeed, many of the groups are still active today).

This 1966 story, by Fred Lutz, has a great overline: “Beginning of a tradition,” which as it turns out, was absolutely correct. As described in the story, the festival sounds much as like does now: native clothing, lots of native food, lots of native beer.

The purpose of the festival, according to its vice president, Henry Pfaff, is to perpetuate German cultural traditions in this country with the emphasis on American understanding of German customs.

“Also,” Mr. Pfaff said, “we want to put new life and enthusiasm into the seven sponsoring German-speaking organizations.”

And no doubt, eat and drink and dance and listen to music and generally have a blast (he didn’t say this, but we’re betting it’s true anyway).

The festival’s website, germanamericanfestival.net, says that the festival was held at Raceway Park until 1974. It moved to the Toledo Lucas-County Recreation Center in 1975, when two of the nation’s best Yodelers, Robbie Schneider and Liza Ward, entertained the crowd. Festival organizers said Saturday and Sunday’s attendance would top 15,000 each day that year.

And even when a little rain showed up, it failed to dampen the enthusiasm of organizers when the festival moved out to its current location in 1987.

So we guess all this post amounts to is a plug for Toledo’s fabulous German-American Festival this weekend. And you should go.

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