GermanFest Picnic returns to Carillon Park
By Emma Jarman
In the beginning, when America was not yet a melting pot, but a salad bowl, not yet indiscriminately fused as a culture, but pocked with outcroppings of ethnic settlement, Dayton had beer – beer and the beginning of a long history with deep German roots. The Dayton Liederkranz-Turner Club is an organization dedicated to preserving and remembering those roots, utilizing rare historical memorabilia, deep pits of knowledge and living, breathing testaments to the way things used to be. Their annual GermanFest Picnic is a celebration of those roots, that history, those people and, of course, the beer.
This year marks the 29th installment of the Dayton Liederkranz-Turner Club’s GermanFest Picnic alongside the river at Carillon Park. Everyone is invited to this free event and on-site parking is available in limited quantities for $2 per car. The picnic will run Aug. 10 from 5-11 p.m., Aug. 11 from noon to 11 p.m. and Aug. 12 from noon to 6 p.m. About 25,000 – 30,000 attendees is average for this event, although last year’s party saw hordes more since the Clydesdales made their rounds through Carillon. The horses will not be back this year, as lightning rarely strikes twice, and the Clydesdales make repeat appearances even less.
Regardless of the presence or absence of the equestrian giants, the amount of activities and displays crammed into three short days of celebration is remarkable. While each year is differently themed and focuses on one particular and unique part of German heritage in the city of Dayton, many of the most popular attractions are seen returning year after year. Recurring efforts include an updated Bavarian fashion show, where club members offer up their lederhosen and girdles to amateur models to strut their eleganz before the crowd, the Belgian beer tasting, which will be Saturday from 3-6 p.m. in the beer garden, and the German genealogy experts equipped with on-site computers and plenty of knowledge in the fine art of ancestry.
If you are interested in tracing your German roots at the picnic, said Judy Schneider, public affairs coordinator for the Germanfest Picnic and Dayton Leiderkranz-Turner club member, it is important to come with as much information as possible before you sit down with someone at the picnic.
“The key is finding out the town,” Schneider said. “That’s really the latch pin for the whole thing.” Certain names are from certain regions, she said, and since families stayed in their towns for such a long period of time in those days, if you find the town your family came from you’ve possibly just located eight or nine more generations in one sitting.
But while the mainstays are doing just that, there will be a great deal of new material to see, including information related to the new theme of the event – Dayton’s brewing history – and new craft vendors and activities for children.
Dayton has a rich history of brewers and breweries in the area that carried on until the early 1960s, and can be largely attributed to Dayton’s early German population. This history will be displayed in the Kettering Building at Carillon Park in the form of hung pictures and photographs, maps and memorabilia, all time lined to tell the story of Dayton’s brewing history as it relates to the city’s German population. Breweries were a large part of the Dayton economy in the 1800s with around 15 different breweries operating at any point in time until prohibition, she said.
The Calvary Cemetery Tour is one way in which this heritage is remembered and preserved. “The Calvary Brewery Heritage Tour is an air conditioned, narrated shuttle ride to the Calvary Cemetery, right next door to Carillon Park, to see the places where Dayton’s German brewers are buried, and to hear their stories,” Schneider said.
And then there’s the beer. What’s a GermanFest without beer, you ask? It’s the same as a GermanFest without potato salad and rest assured this place has both – lots and lots of both. With an assortment of brews proclaimed as “the best assortment of beer this side of Munich,” (self-proclaimed, but proclaimed nonetheless) in countless varieties of bottles, crafts and taps, and mountains of good old vinegar and bacon German potato salad, whether you’re interested in the dead brewers next door or not, it’s worth the trip and the $2 to park the car.
New craft vendors this year include a stained-glass maker, a book dealer and a paper crafter. There will be a 5K race/walk for which one can be registered on or before Aug. 10 by 6:30 p.m. with $20 (first-come first-served for the T shirts).
Basically, there really is something for everyone at the Germanfest Picnic. Not only is it guaranteed fun for every member of the family, it is the largest annual fundraiser the Dayton Leiderkranz-Turner Club puts on every year that supplements membership dues keep the club afloat.
In one word, the picnic is “gemutlichkeit,” Schneider said, which, although it doesn’t have a direct English translation, can be described as, “a feeling of good times and camaraderie.” It’s what the club and the picnic are all about, she said: “That feeling of gemutlichkeit; celebrating the German heritage; the good feeling of bringing people together; and the potato salad.”
For more information on the 29th Annual Dayton Liederkranz-Turner GermanFest Picnic, visit www.daytongermanclub.org/picnic.php.
Reach DCP freelance writer Emma Jarman at EmmaJarman@DaytonCityPaper.com.