Fest’s opening night to celebrate German heritage

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Rita Corn of Jasper lays out German flag-colored decorations to be hung while setting up for Strassenfest in Jasper on Tuesday. The festival begins Thursday evening in downtown Jasper and will run through Sunday.


JASPER — It’s that time again.

For more than a month now, German flags and bunting have steadily popped up at homes and businesses across Jasper. You know what that means.

Strassenfest is near.

Other signs of the city’s history and cultural background will be visible Thursday, when the 41st iteration of the Jasper festival launches with a new German heritage celebration.

An evening of dancing will take over the festival’s main stage following the opening ceremonies. It will include maypole dancing, schuhplattler dancing, waltzes and more. The German Club will demonstrate the steps to each dance, and they’ll also teach audience members how to join in the fun.

Kim Lottes, the festival’s chairperson, said the collaboration between the city; event volunteers; sponsors; and nonprofit organizations who set up food, games and information booths is what makes the yearly festival special.

Anden Taylor, 5, of Jasper, helps screw in a bolt for the beer garden fencing while setting up for Strassenfest in Jasper on Tuesday.

“To me, it’s just truly a community event,” Lottes said. “And I think that’s kind of my favorite part of the whole thing. To watch it come together, and watch the community come together.”

Strassenfest-related activities will take place throughout the city from Thursday morning through Sunday evening. The festival will culminate with a performance by the Celebration Singers at Holy Family Catholic Church at 7 p.m. on Sunday. Fireworks will not be a part of this year’s conclusion.

The theme of this year’s fest is tied to the city’s designation as the 2018 Community of the Year by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The Hofmarschal is Brenda Stallings, who nominated Jasper for the honor.

A full schedule of Strassenfest events can be found here.

Returning favorites like the hot air balloon launch and a variety of free musical entertainment spread across three downtown stages will again be a big part of the festival.

“It’s very unique in that really, the entertainment’s all free,” Lottes said. “So, on the main stage and the west stage, all the entertainment’s free. That brings in a lot of people, because our goal each year is to bring a high-quality festival, really at no charge."

There is a $5 fee to get a button that allows festival attendees to enter the Bier Garten. Once inside, they have access to a third entertainment stage and can purchase German beer and Pfaffenweiler wine. The crowd favorite Alpen Echoes and the Chardon Polka Band will bellow nonstop German music on that stage on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

This isn’t Lottes’ first time as chairperson — she also held the reins in 1997 and ‘98. While some things have changed, she’s still impressed with the high level of teamwork between many the many city groups. That’s what makes the festival successful.

She’s heard estimates that suggest 35,000 people or more flock to the Southwestern Indiana fest every year, but that number is hard to actually nail down, since there isn’t a traditional entrance gate to the activities. No matter how many come, there’s something for all of them.

“I think the nonstop entertainment is a big draw,” Lottes said. “We have two people that work on entertainment all year round, and they really try to find a wide variety of different acts.”

The National Weather Service predicts highs in Jasper will be in the mid-80s throughout the Strassenfest, with lows in the mid-60s. Sunny skies are expected every day, with a small chance for showers after 2 p.m. Sunday.

Members of the German Club lift a decorative facade while setting up for Strassenfest on the Square in Jasper on Tuesday.

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