The German-American Festival (GAF), the Toledo area’s oldest, largest and greatest ethnic festival, returns to its familiar Oregon grounds Aug. 28 through 30.
As always, authentic German food, beverages and entertainment will be in full abundance, including continuous live music at three stages from local Germanic and ethnic bands, an old world-style Bier & Wein Garten, the Import Haus featuring steins, linens and other gift items, new amusement rides and the fest’s signature 56’ by 40’ wooden dance floor in the main Fest Zelt tent – a 100’ by 265’ clear span without poles.
According to Timothy Pecsenye, festival chair, this year’s event promises to be bigger and better than ever.
“The GAF is a Toledo tradition that the community just seems to rally around,” Pecsenye said. “In fact, local newspaper readers have voted it ‘best ethnic festival’ in the area for 11 out of the last 12 years. The sights, smells and tastes of the German and Swiss cultures are right here to be enjoyed by people of all ages. It’s what keeps everyone coming back for more.”
“More” is a key word when talking about the GAF. This year, the festival opens at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28, with a parade and opening ceremonies scheduled for 8 p.m. Other attractions include a Hummel look-alike contest for children 2 to 10 years old, the centuries old authentic Swiss Steinstossen stone-throwing contest, a raffle with a grand prize of $2,000, a first-time ever baking contest on Saturday and, of course, a large variety of German beers and wines.
“We’re also excited to have Die Sandler, a five-piece band from Steinach, the ‘town of wells’ in the Thuringian Forest, headline entertainment on the weekend,” Pecsenye said. “And, our traditional German-language worship service is something that’s going to be very special.
“Set for Sunday, Aug. 30 at 10:30 a.m., the service will be highlighted by music by our own Teutonia Männerchor & Damenchor and the Toledo Swiss Singers, along with 50 more singers from the Chorgemeinschaft Texas. Anyone attending will get free admission to the fest after the service.”
Highlighting the Sunday schedule of entertainment at the Hofräuhalle (formerly the Schwabenhalle Outdoor Pavilion) will be the accordion-driven musical equivalent of Pink Floyd – Polka Floyd – performing from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. To accommodate this “must-see” group, the fest is even staying open two hours later, instead of the traditional closing time of 8 p.m.
“In another exciting development, we’ve signed an exclusive arrangement with Build-a-Bear Workshop to sell our mascot raccoons, Moritz and Mitzi, in stuffed animal form in Mitzi’s Hütte,” Pecsenye continued.
More than 70 acres of free, lighted parking will be available with entrances from Starr Avenue, Corduroy Road and Seaman Streets. People movers will be running continuously to drop guests off at the main gate.
For others who wish to save themselves the drive, shuttle bus service will be provided from Arnie’s at Westgate on Central Avenue, Berger’s Olde Tyme Bar & Grill on Laskey, and the Lucas County Recreation Center.
Shuttles will depart from parking pick-up locations from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, returning from the festival grounds at 1 a.m. both nights. Sunday shuttle service will run from Arnie’s at Westgate only from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Shuttle service will also be offered from Yeeha's Bucking Bar & Grill, 3150 Navarre Ave., Oregon. Aug. 28 and 29. Festival-goers can park in Yeeha’s parking lot and take the shuttle to the gate at the GAF shuttle/bus drop off point.
The service will run every 20 to 30 minutes round trip (depending on traffic density) Friday 5 p.m. through midnight and Saturday 1 p.m. to midnight. Riding the shuttle will help festival-goers avoid parking fees and save $1 dollar on admission to the GAF.
“Most of all, we want every guest to not only have fun, but return home safely,” Pecsenye said. “The Guest Services booth will again have information for responsible alcohol consumption and will distribute free coupons to the designated driver in any group for three complimentary soft drinks to enjoy while visiting the festival.”
Discount advance-purchase admission and GAF shuttle tickets are available for $6 each at The Andersons stores.
Advance purchase admission and GAF shuttle tickets are also available at Arnie’s Westgate, Berger’s Olde Tyme, Shawn’s Irish Tavern and Ventura’s Original Mexican Cantina. General admission tickets will be available at the gate for $7 ($1 off with the donation of a non-perishable food item on Friday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 1 p.m. Donations go to Food for Thought Food Pantries).
Active military, police, fire department or EMS personnel will be admitted at no charge with proof of employment on Sunday.
Senior citizens holding Golden Buckeye cards or equivalent will receive a $1 discount at the gate on Sunday. Children 12 years of age and under admitted at no charge all weekend when accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Festival hours are Friday 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Saturday 2 p.m. to 1 a.m.; and Sunday noon to 11 p.m. To learn more, visit www.gafsociety.org/fest.htm or www.germanamericanfestival.net.
Organizers say this year’s German-American Festival promises to be bigger and better than ever. The festival will be held Aug. 28 to 30 at Oak Shade Grove in Oregon. (Press photo by Ken Grosjean)