Fort Wayne’s German community knows how to throw a party! And they should, since they been hosting one of the biggest parties in downtown Fort Wayne for 37 years.
In fact, Germanfest was one of the first Summit City festivals and is definitely the longest running. And when they say “Trinken und Gemutlichkett,” they mean eating, drinking, and having a really good time.
This year’s festival, from Sunday, June 2, to Sunday, June 9, will be no exception.
Starting with the history
The event kicks off on Sunday, June 2, with a Gottesdienst (German Mass) at St. Peter’s Catholic Church at 11 a.m. followed by Sonntag Spasstag (Sunday Funday) at 1 p.m. at Fort Wayne Turners.
The official opening ceremony will be at 4:30 p.m. at Park Edelweiss hosted by Indiana’s second oldest German Organization, Mannerchor/Damenchor Konzert followed by a Heimatabend (German Evening) of food, live entertainment, and beverages. Trinity Episcopal Church will host a Bach Back & Beyond, Opus 6, at 5 p.m. featuring Eleganza Barokue Ensemble.
The heritage of German organ composers will echo across the city with free 30-minute concerts starting at 12:15 p.m. Monday through Friday sponsored by the Fort Wayne Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.
Dr. Chelsea Vaught will perform June 3 at First Presbyterian Church, Michael Hollman on June 4 at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Dr. Geff North on June 5 at First Wayne Street United Methodist Church, Michael Dulac on June 6 at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and Wolff Von Ross June 7 at Trinity Episcopal Church.
Focus on the food
Official opening of the Headwaters Park East tent is 11 a.m. Wednesday. Then things continue with wall-to-wall activities the remainder of the week.
Four hundred runners will go to the starting line in Lawton Park 7 p.m. Wednesday for the start of the annual Germanfest 5K run. Entry fee is $35. Participants can then take their race bib to the pavilion at Headwaters Park East and be admitted free. Prior to the 5-K event will a kid’s fun run at 5 p.m. which costs $7.
As usual, the food is homemade by members of German heritage organizations.
Kartoffelsalat (potato salad) will be prepared by Fort Wayne Sport Club. Though no exact recipe exists for the kartoffelsalat, the women of the Sport Club Auxiliary have it down pat because this will be the 38th consecutive year they’ve made it for the festival.
Ingredients are prepared in four stages. Bacon is cooked the first day, then eggs are boiled, followed by potatoes being cooked. On the final day, it’s all mixed together into a tantalizing blend that always has festival goers standing in line to taste.
Sauerkraut will be made by Fort Wayne Maennerchoir/Dammenchor. A ton and a half of sauerkraut will be cooked by Peter Jungk and his assistant, Dain Christensen. Jungk, who trained as a chef in Germany, and Christensen have been working together since the 1983 festival.
They point out that the key to their kraut is that it is not simply heated, but cooked. Also, the special bacon grease they get from Didier’s Meats makes the difference. They’ll also be cooking up another German favorite, red cabbage (rotkohl).
Also, apple and cherry cakes (kookan similar to strudel) are the specialty of Fort Wayne Turners, and the pretzels are locally produced by GK Baked Goods.
Other menu items include roasted chicken with traditional Oktoberfest seasonings, schnitzel (thin breaded meat cutlet), and pomme fritte (fries).
Bringing the brew
According to festival chairperson Abby Scheibenberger Heidenreich, four area breweries will be producing their own versions of several traditional German brews; dortmunder, pilsner, weissbier, kolsch, and schartzbier just for Germanfest.
Those brews, which will be premiered at the festival and not sold publically until after the event, are being made by Junk Ditch Brewery, Hop River Brewery, Mad Anthony Brewing Company, and LaOtto Brewing. In addition, most of the favorite U.S. and imported beers will be available.
“The main purpose of Germanfest is to celebrate the German culture through food and music and fun,” Heidenreich said. “There are no strangers at Germanfest. We’re a family-friendly event. Our tables are lengthy and seat a lot of people specifically to promote a sense of community and comradery. We’re also known for the impromptu games of flip-cup that break out spontaneously.”
One of the traditions at Germanfest is Legs n’ Lederhosen which is always held on Thursday. Festival goers of all ages are encouraged to dress in traditional lederhosen or create their very own style.
Saturday’s a big day at the festival. Wiener Dog Nationals start at 2 p.m. to crown a champion. Dachshunds from throughout the area will race in heats to determine one “wiener.”
Traben Tromp, the grape stomping competition, is at 6:30 p.m. with the goal of filling a wine bucket faster than other participants. Polka Like a Star takes center stage at 7 p.m. People interested can take a quick professional polka lesson and then light up the dance floor for prizes.
Church service will be held in the pavilion at 11 a.m. Sunday, June 9.
The accordion orchestra of Gera, Germany, one of Fort Wayne’s sister cities, will perform at noon, followed by the Die Sorgenbrecher Band from Detroit from 12:45 to 5 p.m.
Military personnel are admitted to the pavilion free as are children under 13 with a parent or guardian. Entry fee from 2 to 5 p.m. is $2 and $5 after 5 p.m. No one under 21 will be admitted after 9 p.m. Those under 21 must leave the pavilion at 9 p.m. as specified by Indiana State law.
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