Oktoberfest: Brisk, sunny weather gives festivities a boost
NEW ULM – The weather prognosticators had been predicting showers and thunderstorms throughout the day, but there were only blue skies for New Ulm’s German American Day Parade and Oktoberfest celebrations.
The brisk but sunny weather encouraged participation throughout the day, from the Hermann 5K Run/Walk, where about 400 were at the starting line, to the German American Parade down Minnesota Street, to the downtown celebration where musicians played and people danced in the sunshine.
A large contingent of Martin Luther College students, wearing red “Team MLC” T-shirts, swelled the ranks of the Hermann 5K.
About 400 runners and walkers registered for the race, said Tom Schmitz, New Ulm Park & Rec Director. New Ulm Park & Rec has put on the race for the past five years, and this year’s entries made it one of the biggest, he said.
Hermann the German himself mingled with the crowd before the race, welcoming runners and posing for pictures. As the runners set up at the starting line, Hermann raised his sword, and signalled the New Ulm Battery crew to fire the starting cannon volley.
Moms and dads ran with their kids, and men and women of all ages were running or walking the route.
Dan Beranek was one of the runners who got started late in life.
“I had my mid-life crisis at 52, and I could either buy a Harley or a Corvette, starting dating blondes or take up running. My wife suggested running,” he said.
Kathleen Backer recalled the Alte Post Lauf races which were started by the Brown County Historical Society when she was director.
“My mother would walk the route every year. I used to think that was pretty good for an old gal in in her 70s. Now here I am in my 60s, and I’m walking the route here.”
German American Parade
German-American families in New Ulm marched from the Glockenspiel to the Oktoberfest celebration at Center Street and MInnesota, unencumbered by umbrellas.
Families marched in order of their arrival in New Ulm, with the Alwin family (1855) leading the way. The largest contingent was the Havermeier family (1857) who rode on three trailers along the parade route.
The New Ulm Actors Community Theater had a drill team of chimney sweeps, or Schornsteinfagers, marching and doing short order drills along the route.
Paul Warshauer, NUACT executive director, explained that in German tradition, it is considered good luck simply to touch a chimney sweep, let along shake hands with one.
KNUJ employees marched along the parade route handing out sauerkraut shots from Joni’s Restaurant and Catering.
Joel Albrecht, who had the task of lining up the parade and getting everyone moving in the right direction, said the good weather was a German tradition, and rejected a suggestion that the “luck of the Irish” had something to do with it.
“The Irish usually have lousy weather with their parade,” he said. “We Germans always have good weather.”
Good-sized crowds listened to music by the Schell’s Hobo Band and the Wally Pikal Band on Center Street next to the Chamber of Commerce building, enjoying the music, the dancing led by the Narren, the aroma from the grills where Turner Hall was cooking up brats, landjaeger and hamburgers, and the Oktoberfest beverage that was being dispensed by a Schell’s stand.
A new attraction this year was the “Beer Olympics” held by Radio Station KDOG from Mankato. Held in the parking lot behind the Mietwaschsalon, the Olympics featured fun games like “Cookie Face” (moving a cookie from your forehead to your mouth using only your facial muscles).
“It was a good addition this year,” said Audra Shaneman, New Ulm Chamber of Commerce president. “It attracts a younger audience while the older crowd is out on Center Street listening to the music.”
“The weather was a great surprise,” she said. “It was perfect Oktoberfest weather. A little chill, but put on sweatshirts and jeans, and you’re all set.”