German-American Festival prepares for 45th celebrationWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
More than 30 percent of Toledo-area residents are of German heritage, according to census figures. This may go a long way toward explaining why Tim Pecsenye is so busy this time of year.
As chairman of the German-American Festival, Pecsenye speaks with a great deal of pride and joy about the event he’s put his heart into — though he admitted in an interview that the stress can take its toll in the weeks leading up to it. When asked what he finds most rewarding about working on the Festival, Pecsenye laughed and simply said, “You should probably ask that question during the off-season.”
One of Northwest Ohio’s oldest and most prized cultural traditions, the German-American Festival’s 2010 edition will be held on Aug. 27-29 in Oregon. This year, the event celebrates its 45th anniversary with its eternal blend of traditional German cuisine, music and atmosphere.
“It’s the largest ethnic celebration in the Toledo area,” Pecsenye said. “So this gives an opportunity to sort of relive their ethnic background, and eat some great food and have a good time with their friends and their neighbors.”
For Pecsenye, his work on the festival is the culmination of a lifetime of involvement in the German-American community in the Toledo area. After working within the community for more than 35 years, Pecsenye took over as festival chairman in 2007.
“My greatest satisfaction is that we raise enough to keep our Swiss-German Cultural Center out in Oregon going, and that we’re able to attract as many people as we are to the festival, and that we are able to make it a great community asset,” he said.
He has reason to be proud of the attendance. Modest figures show the German-American Fest attracts more than 25,000 people to Oregon. Pecsenye predicts that the actual number will easily exceed that. The event requires more than 2,000 volunteers just to keep it running each year.
The festivities will begin Aug. 27, with the symbolic tapping of the first keg, followed by fireworks, a first for the festival. In celebration of the 45th year, “we’re trying to do something a little special, and fireworks are part of that,” Pecsenye said.
Beer will play a large role in the festival, as always, with more than 20 different varieties of imported brew available to choose from, as well as other types of spirits. A new official event even centers around beer: “Masskrugstemmen,” where contestants hold a one-liter stein of brew at arm’s length. (The U.S. record is 13 minutes, 30 seconds.)
“We had tried that competition informally on the midway the last couple of years,” Pecsenye said. “When people come to a festival, they enjoy doing things other than just sitting around dancing and eating and drinking, they enjoy competitions like that.”
Also on tap for attendees will be a number of entertainment acts, including numerous bands that bring their own traditional German flavor to the festivities. Headlining the event on Sunday will be the returning Polka Floyd, an accordion-based Pink Floyd tribute band.
“The entertainment acts that we book lend themselves to their ethnic authenticity,” Pecsenye said, noting that no bands are from Germany this year. “We pick our bands very carefully so that we are ethnically correct.”
The festival’s other activities include Hummel figurine look-alike contests and face-painting for children, a Swiss stone-throwing contest, numerous amusement park rides, dozens of food choices (from pretzels to sauerkraut balls), soccer matches and more.
Diversity in planning is key to the event’s goal of providing something for everybody. Scheduling attractions to appeal to a wide range of people, Pecsenye said, is crucial for an event which faces as many challenges as the German-American Festival.
“We’re a rain-or-shine festival, but we are also weather dependent, and I guess we’re economy dependent, to some greater or lesser extent. Our lifeblood is to have plenty of people coming here.”
The long hours of preparation come to an end in just a few days. But for now, the chairman works hard to give every person who attends the festival something memorable.
“The one thing we insist on is that we provide excellent value for our customers, because everybody has a spot for their dollars. And we work very hard to maintain our position as the best festival in Toledo.