Changes abound for Stiftungsfest celebration

Despite packed crowds for the 2016 Stiftungsfest parade, last year’s festival only made about $5,000. (File photo)

by Adam Gruenewald
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After a packed, but not too financially successful Stiftungsfest celebration last year, Stiftungsfest organizers will institute a variety of changes to preserve Minnesota’s oldest consecutive celebration for 2017.
Among these changes for the 156th annual Stiftungsfest celebration are the additions of a new carnival, more food options, the relocation of the Heritage display to the Willkommen Heritage Center, adjustments to entrance pricing, and the first ever Stiftungsfest opening ceremony with the tapping of the first ever “Stiftungsfest Beer” keg.
While last year’s Stiftungsfest drew substantial crowds, especially for the parade, Stiftungsfest Board President Paul Lano said expenses were at $200,000, including $83,000 of the cost of items before the first person comes through the gate. Included in this figure are $32,450 in band expenses as well as the rental of tents, chairs and benches, sound system, restrooms, hiring of umpires and the cost of civic groups that tend gates, set up and clean up, security, insurance, advertising, volunteer shirts and support for the Ambassador program.
With the increase in expenses, last year’s Stiftungsfest generated approximately $5,000.
Amidst concerns for Lano and others is that Stiftungsfest remains a fundraiser for the NYA Fire Department, which uses profits for training and equipment. Volunteering their time to set up the grounds and taking shifts during the celebration, NYA firefighters also respond to over 250 calls per year. Stiftungsfest and the firefighter prevention calendars are the NYA Fire Department’s only fundraisers each year.
“Last year’s bottom line was down for a number of reasons,” said Lano, “and to ensure the future of this celebration, changes had to be made.”
In addition to discussions with board members and the community, as well as organizers of other area festivals, a 10-question Facebook survey with 307 responses is part of what is guiding the changes. Lano did make it clear the Facebook survey may not be indicative of the entirety of Stiftungsfest attendees in terms of age and demographics, however, decisions about changes to the celebration were made after considerable discussion and consideration.
Lano stated that bands continue to draw the crowds to Stiftungsfest, evidenced by the survey as 211 people, or 70 percent, said they attended Beer Garden entertainment and 208 people, or 69 percent, said they attended Big Tent entertainment. The other top two events were the softball games attended by 54 percent of those surveyed, and the craft sale attended by 50 percent.
“There are some people who think (Stiftungsfest) should be free,” said Lano, ““If you want good bands, there has to be an entrance fee.”
The committee has researched other area celebrations that are free, but the bands make the difference.
“Stiftungsfest wants to continue to have good quality bands for all ages,” said Lano, “hold onto our German Heritage theme, all while keeping in mind that this is a fundraiser for our fire department.”
There is always potential for a rainout of one of the nightly concerts and that is always a tremendous concern for Lano and the committee.
Among the new highlights this year is a carnival from J&K Rides from St. Francis, with a variety of games as well as four food trailers that will offer many new food options including gyros, popcorn chicken, French fries, funnel cakes, deep fried oreos, deep fried twinkies, cotton candy, snow cones and lemonade. Lano said Stiftungsfest will receive a percentage of the food sales, and it should offer more options for people in addition to the traditional, and ever-popular, Stiftungsfest burgers.
The carnival rides and games will be set up along Main Street and First Avenue outside of the fenced-in area, so there will be no charge to enter the carnival area. Ride tickets are being sold now with a presale price of four tickets for $10. They are available at Citizens State Bank and Klein Bank in NYA.
Another change this year is the relocation of the Heritage display from a tent to the NYA Willkommen Heritage Center across the street from Willkommen Memorial Park. This brings safety and security to the displays in a comfortable, air-conditioned, handicap accessible space, according to Lano.
“Let’s get people in there and show them what the center is about,” said Lano.
This year’s display will be on the History of Baseball in NYA, coinciding with the State Amateur Baseball Tournament being held in NYA, Hamburg and Green Isle this year. Stiftungsfest memorabilia along with many historic items from the NYA area are displayed as well. Another exciting addition to Stiftungsfest this year is a guided bus tour of NYA’s history and its historical buildings. This tour will be done by David Polzin on Saturday during the celebration.
The committee has opted out of the fireworks display this year in efforts to save funding, taking into account only about half of those participants viewed the fireworks display, according to the Facebook survey. This will be re-evaluated again next year.
Entrance fees have also been adjusted. Kids 12 years old and under will continue to get in free, while the fee for kids ages 13 to 17 is reduced to $3 per day. Adults will still pay $6, while seniors, over 80 years old, will now be charged $3 to get in to Stiftungsfest. Three-day passes for regular admission are still offered for $14.
There will also be adjustments to the volunteer schedule to prioritize areas where volunteers are needed at the festival. Lano said volunteers, who will continue get in free the day of their shift, remain strong in numbers for the event and, of the Facebook respondents, 107 people, or 36 percent, said they volunteered.
Asking surveyors their satisfaction with the Stiftungsfest celebration 116 people, or 39 percent, rated Stiftungsfest as “great,” 128 people, or 43 percent rated Stiftungsfest “good,” while just 52 people, or 17 percent, rated their experience “fair” and five people, or 2 percent, said their experience was “poor.”
Also new this year is the first ever Stiftungsfest opening ceremony and tapping of the first ever Stiftungsfest Beer. Brewed locally, the first Stiftungsfest Beer will be paraded from Lazy Loon Lanes and Brewery to the Willkommen Park grounds starting at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 25.
This year’s Stiftungsfest celebration will be held Aug. 25 to 27 at Willkommen Park, NYA. The Stiftungsfest Board, Committee and NYA Fire Department are all looking forward to a successful celebration. For more information on other new events, registrations and entertainment schedule, visit, the Stiftungsfest Facebook page or look for updates in the NYA Times.
Follow Adam Gruenewald on Twitter @adamgruenewald.