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German and American children and adults take a train ride at a Youth 2 Youth kids’ festival in Sorghof, Germany, on Saturday.

German and American children and adults take a train ride at a Youth 2 Youth kids’ festival in Sorghof, Germany, on Saturday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

German and American children and adults take a train ride at a Youth 2 Youth kids’ festival in Sorghof, Germany, on Saturday.

German and American children and adults take a train ride at a Youth 2 Youth kids’ festival in Sorghof, Germany, on Saturday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

German schoolgirls Verena Schmidt, left, 10, and Smantha Smith, 12, release balloons at a Youth 2 Youth kids’ festival in Sorghof, Germany, on Saturday.

German schoolgirls Verena Schmidt, left, 10, and Smantha Smith, 12, release balloons at a Youth 2 Youth kids’ festival in Sorghof, Germany, on Saturday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

Robert Wallace, left, 13, and Tyler Ray, 11, who arrived in Germany recently with parents from the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment, ride the train at a Youth 2 Youth kids’ festival in Sorghof, Germany, on Saturday.

Robert Wallace, left, 13, and Tyler Ray, 11, who arrived in Germany recently with parents from the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment, ride the train at a Youth 2 Youth kids’ festival in Sorghof, Germany, on Saturday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

Two-year-old Avery Mills, who recently arrived in Germany recently with her dad, 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment soldier Capt. Eddie Mills, rides a pony at a Youth 2 Youth kids’ festival in Sorghof, Germany, on Saturday.

Two-year-old Avery Mills, who recently arrived in Germany recently with her dad, 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment soldier Capt. Eddie Mills, rides a pony at a Youth 2 Youth kids’ festival in Sorghof, Germany, on Saturday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

VILSECK, Germany — Children arriving here with the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment are getting to know their German neighbors at a series of festivals in nearby military communities this summer.

The first event of the Youth 2 Youth program — sponsored by U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr and the Auerbach Rotary Club — was a kids’ festival Saturday in Sorghof, a small German community outside Vilseck’s front gate.

More than 200 German and American children threw horseshoes; jumped on a bouncy castle; took pony, carriage and train rides; got their faces painted; released balloons; and sampled hot dogs, hamburgers and sodas on a sunny afternoon outside Sorghof’s church.

Sorghof Veterans of Foreign Wars commander James Dicks, who helped run the event, said most of the American kids attending were children of members of the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment, which started to arrive here last month.

“Ninety percent of the Americans living in Sorghof are from 2nd Cav,” he said.

Werner Stubenvoll, who also helped run the fest, said the event started 20 years ago to promote German-American friendship.

“This event gets the kids together so they know the neighbor’s kids and hopefully they will continue to play with each other afterwards,” said Stubenvoll, president of the German army’s Sorghof Soldiers and Veterans Association.

Maj. Bryan Denny, 39, of Oxford, N.C., and 2nd Cav executive officer, arrived in Vilseck last week. He brought wife Karin, 37, and son Nate, 6, to the event.

So far, several hundred Stryker kids have arrived in Vilseck and eventually about 1,000 children of soldiers from the unit will be in Germany, he said.

“This is a great opportunity for American kids and German kids to get together and share an experience. Play is the common language of children and to have the opportunity to play together and make friends in their new home is tremendous,” he said.

Nate played soccer for two years at Fort Lewis, Wash., and will be playing soccer on post, Denny said.

“He knew that here is where soccer is serious and he knew about the World Cup,” he added.

Karin said her son was apprehensive about coming to Germany.

“He thought the food would be different and things would be different, so it’s good to show him that things are the same,” she said.

Jeremiah Fergusson, 10, who arrived at Vilseck recently with his dad, 2nd Cav soldier Spc. Jesse Fergusson, said he was learning about German culture.

“There are a lot of carbonated drinks — even carbonated orange juice. Yuck,” he said.

Jesse said he had acquired some German Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and was eager to swap them with German kids.

“The cards are in German so I have to guess their names,” he said.

One of the German children attending the fest, Renner Christian, 11, said the main differences between German and American children are the games they play.

He said Americans play other sports such as basketball, American football and skateboarding.

“Germans play football and tennis and ride bikes,” he said.

Renner, who attends Amberg Gymnasium, said it was easy to beat American kids at soccer.

“They aren’t fast like me,” he said.

Grafenwöhr Garrison’s Youth Services Youth 2 Youth coordinator, Maxine Maloney, said the Sorghof event would be followed by kids festivals at Auerbach on Thursday and Grafenwöhr, Vilseck and Kaltenbrunn next month.

author picture
Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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