Americans return to Heidelberger Volkfest
HEIDELBERG, Germany — There once were fests for all seasons.
Wurst and hot dog, Beck’s and Budweiser, German and American — for decades, they mingled together at outdoor festivals in Heidelberg, some hosted by U.S. Army Europe and held at Patrick Henry Village.
But Sept. 11, 2001, changed all that. Walls went up, gates were guarded and a 40-year tradition of German-American fests, with beer and food and music and carnival rides, held for the community at U.S. installations, went by the wayside.
“The force protection issue was a big thing,” said Regina Abrigo, a spokeswoman for U.S. Army Garrison Heidelberg. “It was too much of a security issue.”
The first summer after the terrorist attacks, fest organizers tried to keep up the tradition at a location near Patton Barracks. Patrick Henry Village, with its accessible housing areas, had become out of the question.
But after that, it dwindled, and there was little or no American involvement.
But never underestimate the power and persistence of goodwill among men and mayors — or the diplomatic appeal of corn on the cob.
“Every year, the city has been asking us if we would participate,” Abrigo said. “So many Germans missed it.
“You’d be surprised how many Germans love hamburgers or corn on the cob or ice cream,” she said.
But the thing they missed most?
“We were repeatedly told that they do not only miss the great food and entertainment variety, but besides celebrating together in the fest tent, they mostly miss walking the fest side-by-side with their American/German neighbors,” Abrigo said in an e-mail.
At last year’s fest, U.S. Army Garrison Heidelberg was represented in a small way: basically a food booth manned by the single soldiers’ group, BOSS, Abrigo said.
This year, after Col. Willie Gaddis, garrison commander, received a letter from Heidelberg Mayor Beate Weber asking for U.S. participation in a city fest, plans got bigger.
So the “Heidelberger Volksfest — With a Taste of America” begins Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Messplatz, Kirchheimer Weg, a fairground near Patton Barracks.
Weber, Gaddis and Michael Henn, the city’s Carnival Rides Association chairman, will get the party started by tapping the ceremonial keg, Abrigo said. Fireworks will follow at about 10 p.m.
If you go ...Where: Messplatz, Kirchheimer Weg, Heidelberg. A fairground near Patton Barracks.
When: The event runs Friday through Sunday and Oct. 19-22. It begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday. From 2 to 10 p.m. weekdays; 2 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.
Attractions: There will be eight carnival rides, food and drink, a flea market and performances, including the USAREUR dixieland band at 5:30 p.m. Friday and the Heidelberg High School band at 6 p.m. Oct. 16.