OLDENBURG – Oldenburg's Freudenfest, "Festival of Fun," returns July 19-20 to the Village of Spires.
The two-day extravaganza features something for everyone, with a variety of live entertainment, food and game choices.
A lot of volunteers are needed in order to host this huge event year after year. Leading the charge is Troy Ilderton, who says, "I am currently the chairman, but we’ve had a few folks fill that role over the years. And certainly within the next few years we’ll pass it on to someone else. Our goal is to make sure we’re constantly preparing the next generation of leaders for the fest."
The Oldenburg resident says planning "really never stops. We usually meet within a month or so of the end of the festival to discuss what went well, what could be improved. We meet year-round, but the real ramp-up to the festival usually starts in March."
Committee member Mike Wilhelm describes Freudenfest as "a German festival with plenty of music, dancing, German-type dinners, southeastern Indiana fried chicken, German beer on tap, all with the village of Oldenburg charm."
Highlights include "13 different musical groups," he reveals. Other moments that keep guests returning year after year include Friday's opening ceremony and the presentation of Freudenfest Scholarships to Oldenburg Academy students and Saturday's "Die Wanderung walks through the countryside, Radfahren bike ride, kids' games, pie auction, German dancers, dachshund dog races and the world famous 'Schnitzelbank Salute.'"
Ilderton presents more details: "Typically (during the opening ceremony), there is a festival blessing, a reminder of the Freudenfest mission, 21-Prost salute and tapping of the ceremonial first keg!"
"The 'Schnitzelbank Salute' is a tribute to the Die Doppel Adler Band, Ken and Fritz, who played at the fest for many years and would always play this when they were here. It’s a great sing-along moment."
Friday also features a live auction, notes auction chair Karen Enneking. Item viewing is open at 5 p.m. and bidding starts at 7 p.m. inside the Eagle Fire Co. firehouse.
Roger Huff and his daughter, Janine Huff, are the auctioneers. Fifteen-plus years ago, "Roger's dad, Andy, began donating his services as an auctioneer for the event," and that tradition continues today with Andy's son and granddaughter. "They make it a lot of fun."
Enneking says some of the auction items she has received include an antique chair, photographs, homemade quilts, old Oldenburg signs and German mugs from the late Andy Koors' collection. There will also be surprises, as "that day people bring things in to donate."
Food is always a big draw. On Friday, the Kiwanis Club of Batesville will sell steakburgers, and OA supporters will prepare ribeye steak sandwiches, steak fries and, "new this year, pulled pork," announces food chairman Jeff Paul. The Pearl Street Pub will also have Fester sandwiches.
There will be Johnsonville fresh brats; metts; hot dogs; chicken livers, gizzards and tenders; reubens; roasted corn on the cob; roasted almonds; funnel cakes; shaved Hawaiian ice; and, of course, homemade sauerkraut balls.
Paul says preparing the latter takes about four weeks, when volunteers gather twice a week in the Holy Family Church cafeteria. "We usually do this in February and March before the weather gets nice .... On Wednesdays, a crew of about 10 combine the ingredients. The next night, 20-30 people hand roll them into balls and bread them, and then we freeze them .... Mandy Struewing does a great job of organizing this and putting out a call for help."
With the exception of the pulled pork sandwiches, Saturday's menu is the same with several additions: fried chicken, German sausage and sauerkraut and roast beef dinners; and German potato salad.
"It's nice that we have so many volunteers that step up to help with things like frying chicken and making German potato salad .... We're really grateful for OA's support because without them we would have a hard time finding enough people to help."
Entertainment chair Paul Brockman reports, "We have lots of music and games for kids of all ages. In addition to the bands from last year, Pros’t is back on Friday night. Two new additions last year, The Klaberheads from Hamilton, Ohio, and the Chardon Polka Band from the Cleveland area, will be back again on Saturday.
"Two new German bands will make their debut on Saturday. These are the Jammin’ Germans from Fort Wayne and the Gerhard Albinus Band. Also, we have a gentleman coming from Nashville, Tennessee, who has a custom-made music organ grinder that will be welcoming people at the entrance of the Freudenfest."
"We will again have stilt walkers from Cincinnati Circus Co. in German attire making balloons and juggling, magic tricks by Matt the Magician from North Carolina, as well as caricatures by Dave from Orlando, Florida, a former Disney World caricature drawer. There will also be the usual games for kids hosted by the Daughters of Isabella."
Chris Munchel, the so-called beer baron, says fest-goers 21 and older will have a choice of brews to wet their whistles: "This year 12 of our 15 beers are brewed with a German influence. Eight of those 12 are imported from the German brewing regions and the other four are brewed locally in Cincinnati. Though not all conform to the famous Reinheitsgebot, German purity law of 1516, their brewing roots can be traced back to the German styles.
"A few big names to look for: old reliable – Warsteiner Dunkel, rising star – Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest, classic smooth – Spaten Lager, trendy – Rhinegeist Peach Dodo, limited pour – Spaten Optimator and one day only –Rhinegeist Franz."
"With a total of 34 taps pouring on Friday and Saturday during Freudenfest, all but two of the 15 different beers will be available all weekend long. As hinted with our 'big names,' we will have two beers that will be 'special pours.' Pints are limited, so make sure you grab your pour early!
"Friday night only you will be able to grab a pint of our limited pour: Spaten Optimator, a Doppelbock that is dark and malty with a sweet balance. This is a perfect start the weekend kind of beer but, as always, please enjoy responsibly! At 7.6 percent, Optimator is the highest ABV (alcohol by volume) beer sold for the weekend.
"On Saturday only, Rhinegeist Brewery from Cincinnati, Ohio, makes its Freudenfest debut this year, and to celebrate we ordered a small batch of their Franz Oktoberfest style beer."
It takes teamwork to pull off any endeavor as big as this. Ilderton points out, "As Mike Wilhelm on the festival committee says when he signs off on any emails to us, 'It takes a village.' It truly does take a whole lot of volunteer effort on the part of a lot of people to make this work. We are very fortunate that we are able to get so many people willing to put their time into making this work."
"There is a great camaraderie amongst the Freudenfest team, and we have a good time putting the festival on. And seeing familiar faces each year that return to enjoy the Freudenfest is something special. A lot of local families use this as a time for family reunions. And, of course, the German beer doesn’t hurt."
What are the proceeds used for? "Well, that’s a long list," the chairman observes. "Primarily the focus is preservation of our German heritage and preservation of Oldenburg and the surrounding community. Some of the larger projects include the Onion Dome steeple, the bricks on Pearl Street, streetlights and sign and those kinds of things. And, of course, the cost of doing the festival."
He stresses, "The Freudenfest is for all of us, and we hope you enjoy it again this year."
For a detailed schedule of events, visit freudenfest.com.
Diane Raver can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.
• A photo contest sponsored by Webber Photographic will take place Saturday. Amateur photographers may enter up to four photos from sizes 4-by-6 inches to 8-by-10 inches of any subject. Individuals must have their names and phone numbers on the back of each print. Entries must be turned in to Pro Prints, 394 Northside Drive, Batesville, or at the Village Store meat department by Friday, July 19, at 4 p.m. Photos may also be turned in at the Freudenfest July 20 by 10 a.m. Prizes are first place, $100; second place, $75; and third place, $50.
• The Twister Lauf 5K Run/Walk is July 20 at 10 a.m. beginning at Gilbert Munchel Memorial Park, Oldenburg. Beer steins will be awarded to the overall male and female winners, and the top three individuals in each male and female age group will receive medals. Cost is $25. Info: Jim Kuntz, 859-750-4479 or email@example.com. Registration forms can be found at http://freudenfest.com/Fun!.html
• Oldenburg Renewable Energy Commission members will staff a booth during the fest. "This all-volunteer study group created by the Oldenburg Town Council last fall will offer fun activities and game challenges for visitors," reports chair Sister Claire Whalen. "They hope to promote energy efficiency in Oldenburg and suggest ways residents can reduce Oldenburg's carbon and ecological footprint so as to address the climate emergency facing all communities worldwide. Free LED light bulbs and other prizes will be available." Individuals are also invited to support the town's LED streetlight upgrade project as a way to assist in lowering its carbon footprint. Cash or check donations will be accepted at the booth or persons can mail checks payable to the Town of Oldenburg to Cindy Laker, Oldenburg's clerk-treasurer, at Town of Oldenburg, P.O. Box 65, Oldenburg, IN 47036.