Friday, August 07 2009
EVANSVILLE — It wasn't quite the same as sitting in the Hofbrauhaus, the famous beer hall in Munich.
But eating at the tent set up for Germania Maennerchor's Volksfest on Thursday was about as close as a Tri-State resident could come without getting on a plane. By noon of the first day of the annual festival, a solid number of people had ventured out to enjoy the food, beer, music and camaraderie.
Scott Lantaff was fortunate to have the day off from his job at SABIC-Innovative Plastics in Mount Vernon, Ind. Lunchtime found him at the Volksfest.
Lantaff said he comes to the event as often as he can.
"Every once in a while, it's nice to get some good German food," he said.
Another draw was good weather. Temperatures in the 80s made for another beautiful day in a summer distinguished for its mildness.
Yet organizers doubted the usual heat would remain absent for the rest of the event. According to the National Weather Service, thermometers were to register in the 90s by Saturday. Still, at least 11,000 people were expected to attend the Volksfest.
Germania Maennerchor, a social and singing club, has held the festival in many of the 109 years of its existence. The biggest exception came between the late 1930s and early 1960s, when patriotic feelings stirred by World War II turned public opinion against anything smacking of German culture.
Earl Young, the chairman of the Volksfest, said this year's event features many of the attractions popular in the past — polka bands and a "kinderfest" for children, among others.
There was a special ceremony in honor veterans Thursday night. Members of a group gathered in Evansville for LST Week were expected to attend.
Mike Forcum, the vice president of Germania Maennerchor, said their attendance is significant because the LST was used in World War II. Many of the veterans in town fought in that war and still might bear hard feelings toward Germany.
For others, the night was not so much an opportunity to bury historical animosity, but an excuse to go out and have fun. Young described the festival as "the biggest reunion in town."
For Ann Austin and her husband, Larry, Thursday was their first visit to the Volksfest, even though they have lived in Evansville since 1961. Not surprisingly, the bratwurst and potatoes met their approval.
Also attractive was the architecture of the Maenner-chor's building on Fulton Avenue.
"We were just commenting that everything looks antique," Austin said. "They were telling us that a lot of it is original."