Suggestions anyone? It seems that Germans have a word for every complex emotion known to humans. You’ve probably heard of wanderlust and schadenfreude (pleasure derived from the pain of others), but what about “kummerspeck” (literally “grief bacon,” or the weight you put on post-breakup) and “treppenwitz” (“staircase joke,” i.e. the sensation you experience when the perfect comeback arrives too late)? They even have a phrase for “complex emotions,” although it’s a lot less interesting than the above. It’s simply “komplexe emotion.”
If there isn’t already a German word for “the wild and wonderful roller coaster of excitement, food lust and post-schnitzel contentment you experience when you find yourself at Fort Wayne’s Germanfest for the first time,” there should be.
There should also be a word for “the homey and blissed out feeling you get when you’re back at Germanfest with your friends and family, everyone reunited over a mutual love of sauerkraut, brats and polka.”
And one for “what it’s like to watch a bunch of wiener dogs run their hearts out,” and “wondering long and hard whether one should go ahead and spring for the lederhosen next year” and “wishing you’d run the Germanfest 5K instead of eating that third piece of kuchen.”
Germanfest, which will take over Headwaters Park and various other locations around Fort Wayne June 5-12, began in 1986 as a way to celebrate the Summit City’s storied German heritage. Since then, it has grown into one of the summer’s most popular and beloved festivals, catering not just to area residents who can boast German blood but anyone who enjoys essen, trinken and gemuchlichkeit. That’s “eating, drinking, and having a really good time” for the uninitiated.
Most of Germanfest’s main events will take place in the festival pavilion in Headwaters Park where food and drink will be served. The pavilion includes a stage for the festival’s many musical acts and a culture tent, where attendees can school themselves on the finer points of German arts and crafts. The festival begins, however, at St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Sunday at 11 a.m. when a special German language service will be held. After the service, church-goers can help themselves to German-style refreshments.
Later that same day, at 4:30 p.m. in Park Edelweiss, Fort Wayne Mannerchor/Damenchor, the city’s preeminent German choral society, will officially kick off the festival with its annual Konzert, followed by Heimatabend, or “German night,” an evening of food, folklore and fun.
Trinity Episcopal Church will also be getting in on the opening day action, sponsoring their “Eleganze Baroque Ensemble Concert,” at 5 p.m. during which 18th Century German music will be played on period instruments.
Monday’s highlights include an organ concert at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church beginning at 12:15 p.m., and Kotstrizer Night at Club Soda, where the German Heritage Society will host patrons for a night of German food and drink. Even after you’ve helped yourself to heaping helpings of Thuringer Brats and Kostritzer Schwarzbier, you might consider staying for the Maskrugstemmen Kontest, which pits humans against full steins of beer, held at arm’s length. The contestant who can hold his or her beer up the longest without spilling wins the prize, and some serious (read “sudsy”) bragging rights.
If you’d prefer a quieter way to enjoy German culture, there’s a piano and voice recital at First Wayne Street United Methodist Church that night at 7 p.m. Admission is free.
Tuesday is chock full of fun as well. For the kids, there will be a puppet show version of Sleeping Beauty performed at three separate times at the Allen County Public Library. Before Disney got its hands on the tale of Little Briar Rose, it was originally a Grimm’s fairy tale, making it a perfect fit for Germanfest. The day also includes the first of several organ concerts to take place at churches around town. Tuesday’s will be at First Presbyterian Church. And that evening, beginning at 6 p.m., futball enthusiasts will want to mark their calendars for perennial favorite Hofbrau Night at the Fort Wayne Sport Club, which, in addition to a six-on-six adult soccer tournament, will give attendees a chance to partake of Hofbrau beer, brats, sauerkraut and German potato salad.
Wednesday is when a lot of the magic happens. At 11 a.m., the festival pavilion officially opens to the public with food, drink and polka for everyone. The festivities include a traditional opening ceremony and the tapping of the first keg. For the younger crowd, there will be the Ferkel Wurst Stuffin’, or the Piglet Sausage Stuffing game, which gives kids the chance to see who can fill their sausage skin with the most plush piglets, and, at 2 p.m. local author Susan Braun will entertain audiences with the story of King Ludwig II, the 19th Century eccentric ruler of Bavaria famous for dining with horses, supporting the arts and dying young in shallow water.
At 7 p.m. the first annual 5K run will take off from the intersection of Main and Barr streets. Anyone tempted to stuff themselves with real sausages might want to sign up.
Runners – and really everyone else – should consider registering for the “Show Us Your Legs ‘N Lederhosen” contest, which gets going at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday on the festival main stage. Participation is free, and winners will take home a trophy and other prizes. Prior to the contest will be an organ concert at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and Porsche/Audi Night, a chance for the car proud to show off their wheels.
For those who have to wait until the weekend to celebrate, Friday’s events will not disappoint. In addition to the daily organ concert offering, this one at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, the day will offer Masskrugrennen, or the beer stein relay race in which teams of three and four will compete against each other – and the clock – for top honors. Bottoms up.Saturday is perhaps the festival’s most red banner day. It starts with the annual Volksmarch, a 10K walk through the city beginning and ending at the festival tent. If that distance intimidates you, you could opt instead for the 5K Vision Walk which will benefit the Foundation Fighting Blindness.
For folks who’d rather watch other people exercise than break a sweat themselves, there’s the 4 Swordsmen of the Apocalypse fencing demonstration at 10 a.m. in the culture tent, and, at the same time, aspiring culinary stars will compete against each other in the always tasty Germanfest bake-off.
Families should keep Saturday in mind, as Familienfest begins at 11:30 a.m. Activities for the young and the young-at-heart, as well as Midway games and rides, will keep everyone entertained morning, noon and night. If you don’t get your fill of fun at the Midway, check out Shire of the Shadowed Stars, a recreation of life in the Middle Ages in Germany under the Holy Roman Empire, take in the beautiful stylings of The Suzuki Strings, watch Jim Barron literally work his magic on the lower level of Headwaters Park, or opt for a relaxing carriage ride through downtown.
Saturday is also Weiner Dog Race ground zero. The finals will take place from 2-5:30 p.m. May the best wiener dog win. For the two-legged, there’s The Trauben Stomp, or grape stomping contest, and for the amateur dancing crowd, the Polka Like a Star Event.
Sunday wraps up the festival with a German church service at Zion Lutheran Church and a screening of Wim Wender’s critically acclaimed fantasy film “Wings of Desire” at the Cinema Center.
There should really be a special German word for “a festival that manages to pack in a year’s worth of culture, fun, food and feats of strength – both human and wiener dog into seven short days.”