HermannFest 2017 to honor Germanic hero, unveil bust of architect

File photo by Steve Muscatello The Hermann Monument makes a dramatic setting for the fireworks display that is part of the HermannFest.

NEW ULM — HermannFest will rise again on Satursday, Sept. 9, this year as a celebration of Hermann the German and the monument of him that was built in New Ulm.

The festival is meant to honor Arminius — as Hermann was called by the Romans — who successfully rid Germania from Roman forces in 9 AD.

“Had that battle in the year 9 not been victorious for the Germanic united tribe under Arminius — later renamed Hermann — we would not be speaking German or English,” local historian Denny Warta said. “It would be a romanced version like French, Spanish and Italian. … It was a world-changing event, there’s no question about it.”

On Sept. 25, 1897, the 102-foot-tall Hermann Monument was dedicated in New Ulm, having been designed by German immigrant and architect Julius Berndt.

“The statue is in honor of [Hermann] and the significance of the statue to New Ulm is that the Sons of Hermann national fraternity agreed to put the monument of Arminius in New Ulm — New Ulm at the time being a very high concentration of German immigrants,” said Tom Furth, President of the Hermann Monument Society. “We were lucky enough — of all the lodges around the country at the time to have the monument placed in New Ulm.

The New Ulm Battery, with extra cannons to augment its arsenal, puts on a big display at last year’s HermannFest, and will be firing salvos again this year.

“I think that that history itself kind of gets lost on folks in New Ulm that we’re blessed to have this monument here instead of in some other town or some other state, even.”

A bust of Berndt, made by local artists Jason Jaspersen, will be unveiled at this year’s HermannFest to celebrate the monument’s architect. Furth said there will be two unveilings of the bust: the first at 3 p.m. at Hermann Heights and the second at 7:30 p.m. at Harman Park.

“The reason for two of them is just that it’s sort of a different crowd,” Furth said. “There’ll be a lot of people up at the monument and then a lot of different people will be down at Harman that afternoon so we figured we’d do it twice.”

HermannFest coincides with the Drew’s Crew 5K Colorfest Run, which takes place in the morning at Harman Park. The event is organized to help New Ulm native Drew Aufderheide and his battle with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and the outrageous medical expenses associated with that.

The 5K will take place in the morning with HermannFest taking over in the afternoon.

Participants in the Drew’s Crew Color run set off an explosion of color as they celebrate their event, which will be held again this year.

“The two of them match up nicely because there’s really nothing going on down in Harman in the morning Saturday that day,” Furth said. “Drew’s Crew, they do a color run and then they have a DJ that plays and I think they’ve got some live-auction items and then they have food that they sell — there’s beer, pop, 1919 Root Beer, water — all that stuff’s available down at Harman Park pretty much all morning and that’s being sold by Drew’s Crew.

“Then at 3 p.m., that’s our agreed-upon switchover time, so we switch over to coupons and it becomes HermannFest.”

Furth said that the current partnership works in that the Hermann Monument Society allows Drew’s Crew to hold its event at Harman Park in exchange for helping with setup and teardown for HermannFest.

“That’s been very, very helpful for us,” Furth said.

Even though Warta is not currently involved in planning or organizing of HermannFest, he was an instrumental part of retaining and maintaining the 102-foot monument over the years.

“It has been a hobby of mine for many, many years,” Warta said.

The task of keeping the Hermann Monument in tip-top condition is ongoing, Warta said, with much more that needs to be done.

“We are currently pursuing the possibility of having the monument declared a national landmark, which would put us on all maps as a national site to visit,” Warta said. “We’re just one designation short of national monument.”

Warta said if the Hermann Monument were to attain said status, it would receive federal funds to help maintain it and ensure its longevity.

“For being over 100 years old and with the conditions that we have in the Midwest — especially in Minnesota — there’s an ongoing need to invest in preventive maintenance, especially when you deal with metal and concrete,” Warta said.

And so HermannFest is here to celebrate those efforts and Arminius’ triumph against the Romans.

The fireworks display is the event’s main attraction. Due to New Ulm’s lengthy history with fireworks, Furth said it was somewhat difficult to get approval for a fireworks display for the first Hermann celebration in 2009.

The event turned out to be a success and half a decade later, when the event was officially christened “HermannFest,” the fireworks display became a nice supplement to not having one during Fourth of July celebrations.

“The nice thing about having fireworks when we have them is it gets dark at 8:30; Fourth of July, you’ve got to wait ’til 10,” Furth said. “It’s really more family friendly to have fireworks at 8:30 … and there’s a lot of time after the fireworks display to continue celebrating.”

HermannFest Schedule of Events

Saturday, Sept. 9

Drew’s Crew 5K Colorfest Run schedule

Harman Park

11 a.m. – Race begins

1:30 p.m. – Live auction

HermannFest 2017 schedule

Hermann Heights

11:30 a.m. – The Wendinger Band

1:30 p.m. – The Johnny Helget Band

3 p.m. – Unveiling of the Julius Berndt Bust

3:30 p.m. – The Concord Singers

Harman Park

6 p.m. – Thunder in the Valley, featuring New Ulm Municipal Band & New Ulm Battery

7:30 p.m. – Unveiling of the Julius Berndt Bust

7:45 p.m. – Time Machine

8 p.m. – Fireworks over Hermann Monument