As reported earlier today, the 90th annual German-American Festival and 45th annual Von Steuben Parade will take over Lincoln Square this weekend. The Festival begins this evening and runs through Sunday, and the parade is tomorrow, September 11, at 2 p.m.
Celebrating German culture, and the ideals of community and family, this weekend-long celebration hosted by the United German-American Societies of Greater Chicago has become a much-anticipated event for the neighborhood and beyond.
According to Helga Zettl, Corresponding Secretary for the United German-American Societies (the umbrella organization for over 40 active Germanic clubs and societies), the parade was previously held downtown by the lakefront, but for the past three years it has happened in Lincoln Square.
It’s a celebration of Baron Friedrich von Steuben, inspector general and Major General of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. The parade starts at the intersection of Lincoln, Damen, and Irving Park Road and continues north to Wilson Avenue, west to Western Avenue, and finally comes to a halt at Western and Leland (the site of the German-American Day Festival).
The German-American Festival runs tonight from 7 p.m. – 11 p.m., Saturday from 12 p.m. – 11 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. – 10 p.m. Zettl’s hours are a bit different.
“We’ll be here at 5 p.m. on Friday,” she laughed. “Food will be ready to be served up, so as far as I am concerned we are open then.”
The official keg tapping ceremony takes place at 7 p.m. Friday evening.
The Festival features three areas to purchase food (think: beer, bratwurst, veal loaf, smoked sausages, potato salad, sauerkraut, and pretzels), and two tents, each hosting live music and performances throughout the weekend. Two German-American Chicago-area bands, Phenix and Paloma, will perform on both Friday and Saturday evenings.
After the Von Steuben Parade on Saturday afternoon, the fest will feature German-American singing, the Children’s Chorus, and performances by various German dance groups, while Sunday morning will feature an open mass (weather permitting) at 11 a.m. on the outside stage. Chicago’s own Perlen will provide dance music Sunday afternoon in the main tent 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
There will also be performances by the Rheinische Drum and Bugle Corps and the Mardi Gras Society of Chicago (with guest appearances by their Prince and Princess, of course). Sunday evening will again feature Phenix in the large tent at 5 p.m and Austrian Express (out of Milwaukee) in the small tent.
The United German-American Societies of Greater Chicago use the festival as a means to support the umbrella organizations. Every three years another member club or society is selected to host one of the three kitchens. (Once selected, the organization works each of the three kitchens over the course of three festival years and then reenters the pool for an opportunity later down the road.) According to Zettl, this is what makes the festival special.
“It is a wonderful way to give back to our community, especially our youth and educational programs,” she said. “It’s about helping each other out and giving the German-American community and all others an opportunity to come together and celebrate our heritage.”