German Fest 2016
On Sunday afternoon, July 31st, we went to the festival grounds on the lakefront for German Fest. We hadn’t been to a German Fest for several years and wanted to get back to it.
We had a good time walking around the grounds and sampling music on a lovely afternoon. There was a good turnout, but the grounds were not packed like it would have been for Summerfest or Irish Fest.
Among the groups we listened to was Alpensterne, a quartet from Minnesota, who performs traditional tunes to a rock beat, with some of the fastest yodeling we have ever heard. They put on a very lively, fun show that had a lot of the audience members up and dancing.
The Donau Schwaben
youth dance group put on a charming display of traditional dancing, most of which were couples dances. The group had four young men and six young women, an unusually good proportion for folk groups, which tend to be female-heavy. (Although it must be said that only one of the young men appeared to be enjoying himself: the others expressions ranged from Solemn Duty to Grim Death--.)
(A semi-serious tip for young men seeking to make friends with nice young women: seek out an ethnic dance group you can reasonably express interest in. You don’t necessarily have to be that ethnicity, and knowing the language isn’t required. All you need to do is to be willing to learn to dance. You will be outnumbered by young women who are typically healthy, in good shape, care about their appearances, and likely have nice, old-fashioned values. The enterprising young gentleman should be able to take it from there--.)
Another group was the Pommersche Spaldeel Freistadt, a community cultural group from Freistad, Wisconsin, which has a long tradition of preserving its ethnic Pomeranian culture. (Pomerania is a region that makes up Northeastern Germany, including the city of Gdansk, and Northwestern Poland. Ethnically and linguistically the people are Germanic. Since great-great grandfather Otto emigrate to America from Gdansk/Danzig as was, I had thought there was a chance that we were Pomeranian. However, having checked the Festival’s name lists in the past, the name Rihn only shows up as Prussian.)
Unusually for an ethnic festival, I had difficulty getting something to eat for dinner, not because there wasn’t anything, but due to timing. I had wanted spanferkel
(spit-roasted pork), which I am particularly fond of, but found they were out, and the next pig wasn’t due off the spit for two hours. Mader’s German Restaurant had a tent with sit-down service and a good looking menu, but almost the moment we sat down, we were blasted out of the tent by a German brass band playing at parade volume ten feet away. I finally got a nice kassler ripchen
at one of the volunteer-staffed booths. Georgie had a very good Wiener schnitzel from another booth.
We had a good look at the vendors, and Georgie found a nice ring set with three colors of amber, which was nicely priced so we bought it. We had a very pleasant time, and were glad we had gone.
One thing that struck me is how different the various ethnic fests are in character. Irish Fest, which we always go to, is very large, the largest Irish Music festival anywhere in the world. Most of the performers that take part these days are professionals (depending on how you count the various Irish Dance schools). Music is mostly traditional, although groups like Gaelic Storm are quite modern, and sung in English, a good thing in my opinion, since I don’t find Gaelic a very pretty language to listen to. The spirit is pretty much always jolly fun, what the Irish call craic
. Quite often a significant number of the performers are not local and some from Ireland or other countries.
German Fest, on the other hand, is more earnest fun. There are more amateur groups represented, music is mostly traditional, and mostly sung in German. Most of the performers are relatively local, although there’s usually some group from Germany like a children’s choir or church choir. Dance groups tend to be community groups: if there’s a school of German dance out there I haven’t heard of it.
After having been to Irish Fest, I excitedly went to an early Festa Italiana, looking forward to finding out a lot about Italian folk music. I was surprised therefore, to find out that the ideal Festa performer would have been Tony Bennett or Dean Martin, had they been able to get them. (Bennett may actually have been here since--.) So, most of the music was basically “lounge” music, with a smattering of opera. The one group from Italy I recall was a Sicilian brass band. The major attractions were Italian food (good, but I can get that any time) and the still outstanding fireworks display, which one can see perfectly well for free from outside the grounds, so I haven’t been back for a long while. (Looking up this year's entertainment schedule for Festa, that's still pretty much what it's like: Joe Scalissi: Dean Martin Tribute; Doo Wop Daddies; John Micheal Coppola and the Four C-Notes (UW Marching Band 5th Quarter Performance??).)
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