Documentary showcases Strassenfest, German culture


Duane Busick

JASPER — With the Strassenfest canceled last year due to the pandemic, many are likely itching to return to the festival in August 2021. In the meantime, a local filmmaker is giving a taste of the festival through a documentary.

Duane Busick, a Bloomington resident and Paoli native, created a 45-minute documentary about Strassenfest and how German heritage is celebrated in Dubois County. The documentary, called “Strassenfest and the Area’s Reemerging German Culture,” will be showcased through Indy Film Fest, an annual festival in Indianapolis showcasing indie films, and is now available to stream online.

Busick, who spent most of his life about an hour from Jasper, said he had heard of Strassenfest before he began filming, but admittedly didn’t know much about it despite its popularity.

“A lot of the things that I documented in the program were things that I had never experienced before,” he said. “I felt guilty about it for being so close and having things in your backyard that you never knew about.”

The documentary, which Busick began filming more than five years ago, features interviews with Strassenfest organizers and participants about the history and impact of the festival, footage from the opening ceremony, polka dancing and other festival traditions. It also includes interviews and footage from the Schnitzelbank, the Christkindlmarkt in Ferdinand, the St. Meinrad Archabbey and history about Father Joseph Kundek, who Busick realized connected nearly every aspect of German culture that lives on in Dubois County.

Kundek was a Croatian, German-speaking priest who came to Jasper in the 1830s and founded St. Joseph Catholic Church, laid out the town of Ferdinand and encouraged German-speaking immigrants to come to the area.

“He’s had such an impact on what's happened in Jasper, even today,” Busick said.

Craig Mince, president of the Athenaeum in Indianapolis and Indy Film Fest artistic director, said he is especially excited for Busick’s documentary to be shared with the public because of his personal ties to German culture.

“I come from a German bloodline but I didn't grow up in an overly German family, per se,” Mince said. “But there are these pockets of German-centric communities in places like Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Jasper, Fort Wayne that love and support each other, and it’s so fascinating to see. Strassenfest in particular is a very popular festival that people will drive hours and hours to go to.”

Busick has also produced videos about other Indiana festivals, such as the Persimmon Festival in Mitchell, the Catfish Festival in Shoals and the Feast of the Hunters’ Moon in Tippecanoe County. For the past few decades, he’s been devoted to telling stories he feels are important and showcase local communities.

He said he’s inspired by his best friend, who passed away about 20 years ago but was a successful animator for Disney.

“He had had a legacy, but it was cut short. So I thought, well, what's my legacy going to be?” he said. “At that moment, I made a vow that the most important project that I was going to be working on at any time would be a project that I wanted to do. I feel it’s my responsibility.”

Mince said this year’s Indy Film Fest will be unique because many of the films will be available to stream online, whereas usually they’re only available to view in person in Indianapolis.

Indy Film Fest 2021 runs from April 29 through May 19. Many of the films, including Busick’s documentary, can be purchased and streamed online by visiting, clicking on “explore the films of the 2021 fest” and looking under the “virtual festival” tab.

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