by ADAM GRUENEWALD
A church fundraiser in Watertown is becoming a cultural hot spot for and enjoying food, music and the company of friends while celebrating the German heritage.
The fifth annual Maifest, set for Sunday, May 19, expects to draw well over 1,000 people to St. Peter Lutheran Church, assuming the weather holds up.
Ron Guest, assistant manager of Harbor Wine and Spirits in Mound and the event’s founder, has been preparing for the event since the start of the year.
The Maifest first originated when Ron and his wife, Joan, who had recently joined the church, found out that fellow church members were seeking a unique event,
At first, fellow members were thinking of having their own Oktoberfest akin to the 16-day festival in Bavaria, Germany, and other festivals held in the United States, but they didn’t want to compete with other fall happenings.
“They were looking for an event to put their name on the map,” he said. “I said, let’s try a Maifest.”
Ron, a native of North Dakota and an area resident for over 20 years, had plenty of experience to bring to the table as he helped with similar events at Bayrischer Hof Bavarian Restaurant in Montrose and Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit in Minneapolis.
Even more so, when he was 18, Ron worked for a bakery in Herborn-burg while his uncle, John Sletten, was in the service.
“I always wanted to get into something along that line,” he said. “I’ve always had an interest in the German heritage.”
Ron views the Maifest as an authentic German experience, with many different opportunities for everyone.
The day begins with an accordion and alphorn worship service at 9 a.m. featuring Jim Strehlke and also the youth group members performing Christian songs in German.
Following the worship are both the silent auction, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and a market with 16 different vendors, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The event is very kid-friendly with plenty of carnival games and a jumper as well.
Food remains a staple of the celebration as there is a schnitzel dinner from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with all day brats, kraut and German beer.
Ron and his fellow church members usually start cooking on Thursday, preparing many dishes for the Schnitzel dinner featuring chicken schnitzel with mushroom sauce, spatzle, red cabbage and bread. A familiar traditional bake sale is also offered with homemade bread, apple strudel and more.
Music and entertainment are a big part of the celebration too as Alpensterne, The Flemming Fold, Bill Koncar, CCLS Ministry in Motion and Choir and the SG Edelweiss Schuplattlers Dance Group are among the groups scheduled to perform.
The day is also highlighted by the 4 p.m. Maibaum (Mai Pole) raising for both children and adults, before a 4:15 p.m. drawing for door prizes and quilt.
Aiding Ron in preparations for the festival are his wife, Joan, and kids Larissa, 9, Raymond, 7, and Annerose, 6, and many of the church’s 85 active members.
“The church I grew up with was a small country-town type church,” he said. “It’s a great bunch of people.”
While they will be prepared with one main tent and three medium-sized tents, Ron is hopeful the weather will cooperate.
Rain and cold temperatures have affected the event the past few years, yet crowds still numbered between 750 and 1000.
“When you’re doing it in the rain and when you get that kind of support, it’s great,” he said.
Ron added funds raised for the event, from sponsors, the silent auction and sale of food, goes to support the church, scholarships and local charities.
“It takes everybody to make it happen and things go off without a hitch,” he said. “Bright and sunny weather is on order.”
For more information and a full schedule of events or to purchase advance meal tickets, visit www.lutheransonline.com/stpeterlc.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]