Out and About: Frankenmuth Celebrates Willkommen and Gemutkichkeit!

WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL
PHOTOS | FRANKENMUTH CIVIC EVENTS COUNCIL

“Willkommen” to the 201 7 Frankenmuth Bavarian Festival!

Taking place June 8-11, Frankenmuth’s 59th annual celebration is billed as the longest-running German festival in the state. The event has been reimagined this year and moved to the heart of downtown. Newly christened a Strassenfest (street festival), the beloved German feeling of Gemutlichkeit (loosely translated as “being welcomed amid merriment”) should be even more abundant!

This family-oriented event draws people from all over the world to “Michigan’s Little Bavaria.”Presented by
the Frankenmuth Civic Events Council, the Bavarian Festival celebrates with activities, Bavarian beverages and food (such as authentically prepared sausages), and live music, with separate tents for polka and non-polka fans! Free activities along Main Street include strolling jugglers, balloon artists, face painters, and others. Admittance to entertainment tents comes with the purchase of a $5 four-day festival pass.

The event kicks off on Thursday with the local community night, featuring music and dancing, the coronation of the 2017 Bavarian Princess and her court, and the ceremonial tapping of the first keg.

Friday starts with pancakes and a Bavarian Bloody Mary Bar followed by entertainment and the raising of the Mai Baum (maypole).

Each year a 35-foot pine is selected for the traditional maypole, which is raised with dancing and a ribbons ceremony.

Later, the Bavarian Festival Olympics will take place at Zehnder Park on the corner of Main Street and Covered Bridge Lane. Teams from Frankenmuth area businesses and organizations compete in creative – and sometimes downright silly games of skill, such as keg rolling, and a two-person brat eating contest, where one team member does the eating, and the other does the feeding!

Music is presented all day until midnight, along with an outdoor movie presentation. Grammy Award-winning Mollie B & Squeezebox, the Chardon Polka Band, and Polka Riot, a favorite polka band in the Great Lakes Bay Region will perform on the main stage; well-known cover band The Sinclairs perform familiar songs in a smaller venue.

Saturday hosts the Kinder Tag parade, which gives young and old the opportunity to express and celebrate their heritage. Children dress in lederhosen and walk dogs or ride bikes. The parade is followed by a scavenger hunt and The Great Duck Race fundraiser for the Rotary Club. New this year are a “History on the Move” mobile exhibit from the Castle Museum and fireworks at dusk.

Also for the first time, entries in Saturday’s sand-carving competition must be sculpted in Bavarian style. “Fantastic displays are emerging,” according to Russ Uphold, president at the Frankenmuth Civic Events Council.

Sunday is home to the crown jewel of the festival: the Bavarian parade, with hundreds of entries of marching bands, beautifully decorated floats, dance clubs, visiting dignitaries, entertainers, royalty, and the newly crowned Bavarian Princess and her Court.

Each year, over 100,000 people enjoy the parade, one of only two occasions during the year that Frankenmuth’s Main Street (Michigan Highway 83) is completely shut down. The beer tent closes at 5 p.m., concluding the festivities.

Other options during the weekend include hiking, biking, or simply embracing other activities surrounded by Frankenmuth’s unique and charming Bavarian-style architecture. Visit a zip line adventure park or one of two water parks, or kayak on the Cass River. All adventures can be complemented by a family-style chicken dinner at the “World Famous” Bavarian Inn or Zehnder’s Restaurants. Numerous venues offer fantastic craft beer selections, bottled or on tap.

Several local historic sites are also open to those who purchase the festival button:

• Frankenmuth Historical Museum
• Frankenmuth Woolen Mill – the oldest working wool museum in Michigan
• St. Lorenz, the founding church, a replica of the original log cabin the German settlers built when they arrived in Frankenmuth

Frankenmuth is renowned as a family-oriented destination, with attractions for the young and the young at heart, all year round.