Written by J. Patrick Eaken
Monday, 22 September 2008 11:06
The Germans are coming, the Germans are coming!
Next August there will be more Germans here than at the annual German-American Festival at Oak Shade Grove in Oregon. There will not only be North Americans of German descent, there will be native Germans at what may be the biggest ethnic festival Toledo has ever seen.
GAF Society Chairman Timothy Pecsenye says the Gaufest next August (13-16) in downtown Toledo will fill more hotel rooms than religious missionaries from Jehovah’s Witness fill here each summer.
Pecsenye says Germans in ethnic dress will be roaming the downtown streets of Toledo for four days. It marks the first time this international bi-annual festival has been in Toledo, and most likely the last time for decades to come.
Pecsenye says a fan of ethnic festivals can take the 25,000 who attended this year’s GAF festival and “multiply by 10-fold” the numbers of guests who typically attend the Gaufest.
“Downtown will be flooded with people wearing German attire,” Pecsenye said.
It will not only set local records for ethnic festivals, Pescenye says it will be single largest single weekend convention held in Toledo in recent history.
The GAF Society played a part in bringing this festival to Toledo, with the help of Lucas County commissioners, the City of Toledo, and the official host organization — the Bavarian Sports Club Haolzhackerbuam.
Pescenye has attended what is considered a regional fest, despite drawing from around the world, in places like Pittsburgh and St. Louis, and says he is looking forward to Toledo’s Gaufest. He’s been to a Gaufest in Germany, too, where they are common.
“In Bavaria and the Northern Tirolean region of Austria throughout the summer and fall months, people celebrate the aspects all aspects of Bavarian culture including dance, music, and, of course, eating and drinking,” says advertising material released by Toledo Gaufest organizers.
The last five Gaufests have been in Hershey, Pennsylvania (2007), Buffalo (2005), Philadelphia (2003), Maspeth, N.Y. (2001), and St. Paul, Minnesota (1999).
Max and Moritz
Pecsenye hopes the Gaufest will help stir the ethnic blood in German-Americans and carry over into Oregon’s annual GAF festival for years following. Pecsenye estimates that about 30 percent of the population locally is of German or Swiss ethnicity.
The Oregon-headquartered GAF Society, to help increase attendance at its annual festival, has been using the images of fiberglass raccoons from Oregon’s 50th anniversary celebration last year as part of its marketing campaign.
In a year-long celebration of the city’s 50 years since its incorporation, 50 raccoons were sponsored by area businesses, painted and designed by local artists, then released in an auction conducted by television newscaster Jerry Anderson about a year ago this week.
The GAF Society has placed images of its raccoon, Max, in his ethnic garb, on billboards in the suburbs and around Toledo to promote its annual fest.
The GAF Society originally had one raccoon, but it now has two fiberglass raccoons. The original GAF-sponsored raccon is named Max. The other one the GAF Society acquired from Star Diner was repainted and named Moritz.
Max and Moritz are described in German literature as “impish little boys and our feeling is that raccoons have the same rascally type ways,” Pecsenye said.
"As part of our marketing effort, we felt that we needed a brand to be used on advertising pieces so that the public would see it and know that they were seeing something about the (GAF) Festival. This is similar to brand marks for consumer items and sports teams,” the festival chair added.
Pecsenye said he wanted to create an image recognizable for local residents to identify with. He would also love to see a celebrity spokesperson come on board for the GAF festival, much as Jamie Farr does with the LPGA pro golf tournament held annually in Sylvania.
“I would love to get a person who is on the same plane as Jamie Farr who would commit. That could help make the (Oregon’s annual GAF Festival) a premier event,” Pecsenye said.