For 146 years, residents, former residents and visitors have been gathering to celebrate Stiftungsfest, Minnesota's oldest celebration. While the event has changed greatly over the years, the theme is the same, getting friends and neighbors together to sing, dance, eat, drink and have a wonderful time.
The Pioneer Maennerchor, a men's singing group, is credited for beginning the celebration in 1861. Carl Bachmann, who moved to the area from New Jersey earlier that year, wanted to form a singing group similar to one he belonged to back East. He gathered a group of local men who enjoyed singing, and the Maennerchor was born. Besides Bachmann, early members included Henry Bachmann, Adolph Hostermann, A. Schrimpf, H. Verufen and Henry Hostermann., They sang a variety of songs, mostly in German.
The group held an annual get together for members, their families and the community members. In December of 1866, the group held a threeday celebration from Friday through Monday in a rented hall in Young America. Entertainment included a fivemember band. From this first celebration, Stiftungsfest evolved.
The singers met in local homes until 1868 when Singers Hall was built in Young 'America on a piece of land near the present water tower. The Maennerchor and other local men helped construct the hall.
Half a century old
In 1911, Stiftungsfest celebrated its 50th anniversary with a huge crowd and many activities in the city park. Trainloads of visitors came to Young America including the Second Regiment Band and the New Ulm Maennerchor Later in the day, the band marched through the city. The day ended with a grand ball in the evening.
By 1938, the Pioneer Maennerchor membership was down to six members. On July 7, 1938, the group voted to 'disband the Maennerchor and turn the Stiftungsfest celebration and Singers Hall over to the village of Young America. The village in turn gave the property and celebration to the fire department which is still actively involved in Stiftungsfest today.
From 1938 through 1955, Stiftungsfest was held as a oneday celebration in Young America. Even during the years of World War II, the annual celebration continued.
In 1956, Young America firemen decided to make a few changes. The celebration was expanded to three days and a parade was planned. Several local people dressed in oldfashioned costumes and traveled to other local celebrations to hand out information advertising the upcoming Stiftungsfest celebration. The threeday event, complete. with parade, drew 25,000 people for the weekend.
Those living in the city in 1956 may recall that the Schell's Hobo Band, who' slept overnight in Bouncer's Bar (owned by Alfred Stenzel), marched up and down main street doing revelry at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning. It was in 1956 that the barbecued beef became a part of the Stiftungsfest tradition.
It was also around this time the special seasoned hamburgers made their debut under the guiding hand of Bernard "Bernie" Pedersen and J.J. Thomas in the Young America Meat Market. Both foods are still served today.
In 1966, men's softball tournaments were added to the list of events. In 1971, women's softball tournaments became a part of Stiftungsfest.
Music festival grows,
In 1980, an International Folk Festival interested in German celebrations, wrote to resident Joyce Nuernberg for information about Stiftungsfest. The information was forwarded to New York and then to Bonn, Germany. A local German band wrote Nuernberg to ask if they could come play at the next Stiftungsfest. In 1981, the Diedesfeld Band was the first of many German bands to come to Stiftungsfest. They returned in 1986, 1991 and 1996 and are here again in 2001.
In 1986, a number of new items were added to Stiftungsfest. A large tent was erected on the west end of Main Street to provide a stage for the many visiting bands and seating was added for the visitors. A 30 by 30 foot oak floor was added for dancing. An arts and crafts sale and flower show were also added that year.
In 1994, Willkommen Park had a facelift. "Old Town in the Park" was, the theme of the new buildings and walkways built in the park to represent an old German town. The project, costing $50,000, was done through donations, fundraisers and help from city organizations.
In 1994, the fire department also decided to invite a German band to perform at Stiftungsfest each year.
When the cities of Norwood and Young America voted to merge in 1996, the city's fire departments joined together to sponsor Stiftungsfest. Stiftungsfest Incorporated, a nonprofit organization, was formed. The organization is comprised of 815 members who formed committees and met throughout the year making plans for Stiftungsfest. More than 30 people are members of the various committees which include music, foods, advertising, arts and crafts, housing, softball, cleanup and several others. Many local organizations now participate in various aspects of Stiftungsfest, too. Today, it takes more than 300 volunteers to plan and carry out the threeday festival.
In 1998, a grant from the Minnesota Arts Council made it possible to add new attractions to Stiftungsfest. A Heritage tent with many German crafts and displays was added, as was a Kinder Tent with special music provided by the Spatzenchor (Children's Choir), made up of area children.
In 2001 the Diedesfeld Band returned for the fifth time, and a grand day parade with over 125 units comprised of floats, marching bands, horsedrawn units, cars, clowns and many other attractions, was held.
In 2002 some new items including a special display of the former city of Norwood, which was founded 130 years ago, a special performance marking the 40th anniversary of Peter and Paul Wendinger. a car show and children's dance show have been added to the festivities. The Evergreens from Germany will be special musical guests.
And, Stiftungsfest would not be the same without many of the traditions that have continued over the years including music under the Big Tent, arts and crafts show, the kiddie pedal pull, softball tournaments, beef dinners, hamburgers and lots of German food and drinks.
Tuesday, Oct 6, 2020 at 10:00am
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Tuesday, Oct 6, 2020 at 2:00pm
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Wednesday, Oct 7, 2020 at 2:00pm Central Time
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