Hundreds gather for 13th annual Germanfest

Hundreds gathered at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Big Rapids for the 13th annual Germanfest to enjoy a night of dinner, dancing and authentic German beer and wine. (Pioneer photos/Taylor Fussman)

BIG RAPIDS — Beer flowed and the dance floor shook as hundreds gathered at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church and School for the 13th annual Germanfest on Friday.

With approximately 800 people in attendance, Mark Viel, member of the Germanfest committee, said the tickets for the event were sold out.

“I think it’s a blast,” said Polly Byers, who was in attendance at the event for the first time with her husband John.

Viel explained the annual event is not only a chance to celebrate German heritage, but also to raise funds for St. Peter’s Lutheran School and youth programs. He added although the total amount raised is not yet known, all proceeds will go to helping this organization.

Attendees had the opportunity to celebrate with a variety of beer, or “bier,” ordered from Germany, as well as an assortment of red and white wine, or “wein,” from the Rhein and Mosel valleys.

Among the options for beer enthusiasts at Germanfest was Dunkel, a dark beer characterized by a smooth, malty flavor.

While some danced through the night to a Michigan-based live band, Immigrant Sons, others showed off their strength in Hammerschlagen, a game in which participants drove nails into an oak block with a small maul. Others participated in Masskrugstemmen, a game requiring participants to hold a one-liter glass mug in an outstretched arm for as long as possible.

Attendees of Germanfest were entertained for the evening by Michigan-based live band, Immigrant Sons, who played polka music. There also was a variety of contemporary music played to suit all tastes in the crowd.

Marianna Timmerman (left) and Michael Galvin danced to polka music performed by Immigrant Sons.

In addition to the fun and games and authentic German drinks, the evening also offered the chance to enjoy bratwurst, German potato salad, sauerkraut and a wide assortment of other dishes and desserts.

Jana Farrier, one of the chief cooks for the event, said the menu consisted of roughly 800 pounds of meat, 75 pounds of sauerkraut and 12 gallons of pickled beets, just to name a few of the ingredients.

She added all the desserts are donated each year by members of the church and school.

People had the opportunity to enjoy a selection of German-inspired food on Friday, including bratwurst, German potato salad and sauerkraut.

In addition to a wide range of German cuisine, attendees also had a variety of desserts to choose from, all of which were donated by members of the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.

Farrier, who has participated in Germanfest for 12 years, said she begins cooking the food for the event the week before with Mike Wilkinson, who has been a cook for all 13 years.

“It’s a good community outreach program,” Farrier said of why she continues to cook for the event each year. “People look forward to it and it’s a chance for people to get together.”

Viel said he has enjoyed working on the event each year because of the delight it brings to everyone in attendance as well.

“I’m excited that once again we are able to give to the community just as the community has given to us,” Viel said.

Larry Bajor (right) was one of many volunteers serving authentic German beer to guests Friday evening.



Posted by Taylor Fussman

Taylor is the cops and courts reporter for the Pioneer and Herald Review newspapers. She can be reached at (231) 592-8362 or by email at

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