Annual Pretzel Festival set to return for the 38th year

Photo: Living statue interacts with children at last year’s festival

By Tim Walker

People love pretzels, and during its annual Pretzel Festival, the city of Germantown has plenty of them: pretzels of all kinds, as far as the eye can see. Soft pretzels, gourmet pretzels, freshly baked pretzels. Pretzels filled with a filling of jalapeno cheese, with cream cheese, or slathered in mustard. Pretzels covered in pizza toppings, dipped in cheddar cheese, or fashioned into buns to cradle unimaginable culinary delights tucked within. Wunderbar!

The 38th Annual Germantown Pretzel Festival, one of the Miami Valley’s most popular festivals, will take place this year on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 23 and 24 at Veterans Memorial Park in Germantown. Admission is free and open to all ages, and the hours for the festival will be 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and noon till 6 p.m. on Sunday. Veterans Memorial Park is located at 75 N. Walnut St., right off State Route 725.

“It’s a free festival that’s been held each year since 1980,” says Jim Landis, publicity volunteer for the Pretzel Festival. “We started on a street downtown and then we moved it to Veterans Memorial Park several years ago—there was a lot more space there, and easier access to electricity. The vendors need a lot of power, as you might imagine.”

What the vendors at this year’s festival are promising are pretzels, of course, coming in all varieties, sizes, and flavors. While the exact origin of the traditional Bavarian pretzel is unknown, legend has it that a monk created them in A.D. 610, perhaps in a monastery in Northern France or Southern Italy. It’s been suggested that the crossed strips of dough were meant to resemble a child’s hands at prayer, and the pretzels’ traditional three holes were meant to symbolize the Holy Trinity. The monks offered the warm, doughy snacks to children who had memorized Bible verses, and called them a “pretiola,” Latin for “little reward.” After travelers carried the snacks across the Alps and into Germany, the food became known as a “bretzel” or “pretzel,” and the rest, as they say, is culinary history.

“Making the festival accessible to those who might have mobility issues has always been important,” continues Landis. “That is something we’ve always been very conscious of, and we’re proud to say that this festival is easy to navigate. The entire area in the park has sidewalks and is easily accessible to the handicapped—we’re very proud of that. We’ve also taken all the parking spaces that are usable for handicapped people, around the outside of the park, and we’ve made them temporary handicapped spaces. Those spaces fill up quick, so people might want to get there early!”

While pretzels in infinite variations may be the primary focus of the festival, the event’s scheduled entertainment also offers something for everyone to enjoy. Local television channel WDTN’s meteorologist Tara Hastings is this year’s Mistress of Ceremonies, and popular local musicians The Stagger Lee Band will be performing several sets of country-rock songs from 7 p.m. till 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night. The DEAP Dance Studios will be showcased on Saturday from noon until 2 p.m., and local magician Stan the Magic Man will be performing feats of prestidigitation onstage and around the park on Saturday. Sunday’s entertainment schedule is just as exciting, with Butch Jones and the Standard Country Time Band performing from noon until 2 p.m., and Spittin’ Image, a musical and comedy duo from Greenville made up of identical twins Blain and Brian Swabb, onstage from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. Spittin’ Image has proven popular with the festival’s crowds in the past.

“We fill up the park with booths and good food, of course,” says Jim Landis. “We have a lot of craft vendors—goods that people make themselves, and some of them are just amazing. All of the entertainment and admission is free, and the festival is open to all ages. It’s just a really nice weekend, and we’d love to see everyone come out and enjoy themselves.”

There’s no denying that the city of Germantown is a fun, friendly place to spend a weekend, and with the 38th annual Pretzel Festival as an incentive, it’s a sure bet that many people in the Miami Valley will be heading there and discovering it all for themselves for the first time.

The 38th annual Pretzel Festival will take place at Veterans Memorial Park in Germantown on Saturday, Sept. 23 from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 24 from noon – 6 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, please visit PretzelFestival.com.

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Tim Walker
Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com

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