Liederkranz-Turner German Club’s annual Germanfest Picnic
By Chelsea Davis
Photo: Alphorn Gruezie perform in the Spassplatz at last year’s Germanfest Picnic; photo: Judy Schneider
Looking for an exciting, fun-filled, family event with plenty of food and beer? Look no further than the Dayton Liederkranz-Turner German Club’s 31st Annual Germanfest Picnic, beginning Friday, Aug. 8 at Carillon Park.
The club began as a singing club in 1890, making it the oldest German-American club in the Greater Dayton area. To this day, Liederkranz-Turner promotes the area’s German heritage and culture through dance, customs, language and, of course, song.
“There’s a deep tradition of German singing societies throughout the country,” Judy Schneider, the picnic’s publicity chairperson said. “There are even two singing societies in Dayton, but we solely put on the Germanfest Picnic.”
This year marks the 31st year of the Germanfest Picnic, an event that got its start as a small get-together for club members and friends, but quickly grew to be one the largest and most popular festivals in Greater Dayton.
“It requires a huge amount of effort and people, especially on the part of our club members, who aren’t getting any younger,” Schneider said. “We rely on the help of family and friends, and people in the community.”
Each year, the club enlists the help of community organizations, such as the Boy Scouts, members of the Special Olympics in Dayton and various church organizations.
“It’s a great way to give back to the community, all while promoting the German heritage,” Schneider said. “People volunteer every year because they love doing it.”
While the club receives a lot of help from friends in the community, they aren’t receiving many new member requests. The younger generations are quick to help, but don’t seem to have an interest in participating as members – a problem that plagues many social organizations.
“The younger people don’t have an intensity of interest the older folks do,” Schneider said. “Many members bring their families, but as far as membership, we just don’t have a lot of young people involved. It’s a shame, because the heritage is dying out.”
However, that heritage is not gone. As has come to be expected, Germanfest promises a good time for all, complete with a bevy of vendors selling traditional German products in the Marktplatz, bouncy rides in the Kidzone, a big 50/50 raffle and host of other events.
Kicking off the Germanfest festivities is the Opening Ceremony and traditional keg tapping on Friday in the Sassplatz (Entertainment tent), emceed by Brian Davis of WDTN-TV 2. In addition, the club will present scholarships to three outstanding German students from the Dayton area. Following the ceremony, a 5K and 10K run/walk will commence.
On Saturday, the big event is the fashion show, which features traditional clothing from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Although this is an event hosted by the German singing society, the members of the Liederkranz-Turner Club won’t be performing at the picnic. However, there are a number of wonderful musicians on deck for both your listening and dancing pleasure.
“We won’t be singing because all of our singers are busy manning the tents … we just don’t have the power,” Schneider said. “But we do have a full selection of German bands, including some from Cincinnati and Columbus. There is a polka band on Sunday and an organ grinder, with a real German barrel organ, will be welcoming people to the festival.”
Throughout the weekend, Autobahn, Pros’t, the Alpen Echoes, Alphorn Gruezie, the Chardon Polka Band and organ grinder Ted Guillaum, will perform. A special Polka Mass will be held on Sunday morning at 11 a.m., with the Alpen Echoes accompanying.
And if you aren’t swayed by the music, the food is certainly a reason to attend. In addition to the traditional schnitzel dinner featured at Germanfest, patrons can choose from grilled brats and metts, sauerkraut, wurstalat, pretzels, a large selection of baked goods and most importantly, the “famous” Liederkranz German potato salad.
“There is all kinds of traditional German fare,” Schneider said. “We have ordered tons of potatoes just for the German potato salad – it’s the best anywhere.”
This year, they’ve added a special express lane for those interested in just getting the $10 schnitzel dinner, due to the overwhelmingly long lines for the food.
If the food and fun wasn’t enough, the Germanfest Picnic also has biergartens and a weingarten, featuring a rather large selection of craft beers, Jagermeister and German wine and beers. There is even a special Riegele Biergarten featuring Riegele Beer from Dayton’s Sister City, Augsburg, Germany.
“The Riegele has been available for about a year in Dayton,” Schneider said. “All thanks to David Klass, the Augsburg City Chairperson for the Dayton Sister City Committee. We also have the best selection of beer this side of Munich.”
Dayton and Augsburg celebrate their 50th year as official Sister Cities. More information can be found in the culture area of the Germanfest Picnic, run by Schneider.
The 31st Annual Germanfest Picnic promises to be a good time for all who come. Whether you have any interest in German culture or are just out for some tasty food and crafty beer, Germanfest and the Liederkranz-Turner Club welcome you. And hey, who knows, you probably have a closer tie to Germany than you think.
“Southwest Ohio was strongly settled by Germans in the 1850s through the 1870s – the whole Southwest corner,” Schneider said. “Probably at least half or more people in Dayton have German in their roots.”
The Germanfest Picnic starts at 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8 and runs until 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 10, at Carillon Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd. Admission is free. Parking on-site is $2 per car. For more information, please visit daytongermanclub.org.
Reach DCP freelance writer Chelsea Davis at ChelseaDavis@DaytonCityPaper.com.