Celebrating German culture

O n August 10, the 35th annual Dayton Germanfest Picnic will open at Riverscape Metropark. Put on by Dayton Liederkranz-Turner, the Miami Valley’s largest German heritage club, the three-day event will begin with a traditional beer keg tapping during Friday evening’s opening ceremony, and will include live music, craft vendors, genealogy services, dancing, family activities, […]

Germanfest Picnic’s 35th year at Riverscape

By David Nilsen | Photos by Adam Alonzo

On August 10, the 35th annual Dayton Germanfest Picnic will open at Riverscape Metropark. Put on by Dayton Liederkranz-Turner, the Miami Valley’s largest German heritage club, the three-day event will begin with a traditional beer keg tapping during Friday evening’s opening ceremony, and will include live music, craft vendors, genealogy services, dancing, family activities, and plenty of great German food and beer.

This year’s edition will feature two stages of live entertainment, with authentic German music, German-influenced rock bands, and modern rock filling out the schedule.

The energetic Chardon Polka Band will kick things off on the Spass Platz Stage at Riverscape on Friday evening. While this innovative group plays some traditional polkas, they also mix things up with polka-pop covers of tunes from Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and other pop acts.

On Sunday, long-running act The Klaberheads will take to the main stage. Picnic organizer John Koerner has a long memory of enjoying this
high-energy band.

“They’re a very popular band, and they’ve been around a long time,” says Koerner. “Most of the band members are third- or fourth-generation. I can remember 25 years ago watching the Klabers up at the Minster Oktoberfest. Their kids have picked it up now.”

The Klaberheads were actually founded in 1930 as The Franz Klaber Orchestra, and are one of the oldest German bands in the state.

New to the Picnic this year, a second stage on Patterson Blvd. at the south end of the festival will feature rock, folk, and jazz bands like Full Throttle, Hey There Morgan, Ludlow, and the Last Call Trio. Rumor has it Dayton’s legendary Rubi Girls drag troupe will make an appearance there as well.

Germanfest will also be utilizing Crawford Plaza in front of Fifth Third Field for the first time this year, allowing for a larger and more organized Kids Zone than last year. The area will feature an expanded lineup of inflatables, rides, and games, as well as puppet shows and an animal exhibit provided by Five Rivers Metroparks.

Of course, one of the biggest draws of this annual festival is the amazing lineup of authentic German food. The majority of the food is prepared and sold directly by the Liederkranz-Turner team, and will include the group’s beloved schnitzel.

“Our classic schnitzel will be the feature, of course,” says Koerner. “Sliced just perfectly, and breaded just perfectly to come out how we like them. We sold 6,000 last year.”

The Picnic crew also takes pride in their traditional potato salad. “You won’t find it anywhere else,” promises Koerner. “There isn’t anything else like it. A lot of people look forward to that.”

In addition to the Liederkranz food service, other food vendors will also be on hand offering everything from vegan burgers to kettle corn. Columbus food truck A Cut Above will offer additional German fare to complement the Picnic’s main food tent.

No German celebration would be complete without a lot of really good beer, and Germanfest Picnic will not disappoint area brew fans. Two beer areas will serve up both imported German classics and local craft offerings, including some of the first Oktoberfest lagers of the season. One of these beer gardens will be near the music stage on Patterson, and is new for this year’s festival.

“We’re going to have what’s known as the Warsteiner Emporium this year,” explains Koerner. “There will be a beer garden with Warsteiner beers from Germany, and a number of beers from the Dayton Beer Company.”

Dayton Beer Company will be brewing three German-style beers exclusively for the event. Lost Tunnel Mitternacht im Munich (Midnight in Munich) is a Munich amber lager, and the brewery will also be bringing a German Pils and a Munich Dunkel. Koerner warns beer lovers that DBC’s exclusive beers sold out last year by early Saturday afternoon.

Dayton Beer Company is also sponsoring the Picnic’s Saturday morning 5K/10K walk and run along the scenic Riverwalk. The proceeds from the race go to benefit Germanfest’s scholarship program for area students. Last year over $7,000 worth of scholarships were awarded.

During all three days of the picnic, guests can browse through the booths of numerous merchandise and craft vendors in the Marktplatz, as well as learning more about German history and heritage in the cultural display exhibit. This year’s display will focus on the German education system from Kindergarten through Universität. Dayton’s German Genealogy Group will also be on hand to help guests trace their own German ancestry. On Sunday, Father Bill Myers will lead a Polka Mass at the Riverscape Pavilion.

Admission is free all three days, and an RTA shuttle will be running to and from the event on a route through downtown and the Oregon District. Whether you want to eat some authentic German food, lift a stein of excellent German lager, take in some live music, or just enjoy a cheap afternoon in the sun with your family, head on out to Dayton Germanfest Picnic. Prost!

The Leiderkranz Germanfest will take place at Riverscape, Monument Ave., Dayton from August 10 through August 12. For more information and a schedule of events, visit germanfestdayton.com.

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David Nilsen is a beer writer living with his wife and daughter in Greenville. He is a Certified Cicerone and National Book Critics Circle member. You can follow him at DavidNilsenBeer.com and reach him at DavidNilsen@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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