We ran into a bagpiper heading to march in Lincoln Square’s annual German-American Steuben Day Parade and wondered if perhaps he had mixed up his holidays. No, he laughed. German police officers don’t have a band, but the Irish do, so the Emerald Society offered up its services. “This is America,” he said, as our paths diverged.
America yes, but with a decidedly Deutsch accent on Saturday as parade watchers turned out to celebrate German culture, language and music and the strong influence German immigrants had in the shaping of Lincoln Square.
Neighbors — both old-timers and newcomers — lined the route along Lincoln, Eastwood and Western to applaud passing cars, floats and marchers, with youngsters scrambling to grab strings of beads and candy tossed into the street. Miniature German flags were a popular accessory, as were traditional Bavarian hats.
Annie Vedder of Northcenter and her friend Rachel Patten of Uptown were among the shoppers who crowded International Fashions by Ingrid, 4714 N. Lincoln Ave., to indulge in a bit of Alpine chic. “We were going for a walk and saw the parade and these amazing hats,” said Patten; the pair wound up purchasing matching bright red toppers.
For Penny O’Neil and Stephanie Zimmermann, who marched with their daughters as part of the contingent from Pilgrim Lutheran Church, the parade provided a chance to connect with their roots, and pass along a family tradition to their children–literally. O’Neil was outfitted in her mother’s dirndl and Zimmermann’s daughter, Audrey Howaniec, was sporting her grandmother’s, with the help of a few safety pins.
Zimmermann’s father is German and O’Neil lived in the country as a young girl. “It brings back my childhood. I will do anything to put on my dirndl,” said O’Neil. “This is our big day. It’s better than Halloween, it’s better than Christmas.”
The German-American Festival continues today at Lincoln and Leland, open until 10 p.m.