A German at HermannFest

Staff photo by Anna Koehler The bar where I worked during Hermannfest from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

I have been asked questions about Hermann multiple times during my time in New Ulm. I have to admit that no, I did not know about Hermann before I came to Minnesota and thus no, I have not visited the ‘Hermannsdenkmal’ in Detmold, Germany either. So for me, it was astonishing to see how this part of German history that I hadn’t been aware of has such an important role in this community and how Hermannfest reflects that.

Participating in the activities surrounding Hermannfest was a lot of fun. Together with two of my host mothers I tended bar around noon up at the Hermann monument, watched the battery shoot the cannons and marvelled as the fireworks went off over the Hermann monument.

Tending bar was definitely one of my favorite parts of the festivities, since I have always liked observing and getting in touch with the visitors. It was so interesting to see where some of the people came from and what they did at the festival — I saw families on a vacation, friends having a good time together and even a class reunion take place at the fairgrounds additional to the entertainment.

Speaking of entertainment, something entirely new for me was the use of the cannons as percussion during the performance of the municipal band. Albeit a bit too loud for my taste (who would have guessed that cannons make that much noise?), the staging of the shots being aligned with the music was definitely a new experience and gave the music a new context.

Watching the fireworks was a great sight as well. Since in Germany the possession and use of fireworks is not prohibited and we celebrate New Year’s Eve with almost everyone shooting off an assortment of pyrotechnical devices at the stroke of midnight, I have seen my fair share of fireworks over the years. But to see a professionally organized show is something completely different than having your neighbors and friends light up a few rockets. For that reason I really enjoyed watching the show from Harman Park and observing the reactions of the people around me. And since they started clapping repeatedly during the show (myself included), I think it is safe to say that the show was a great success.

All in all, Hermannfest reminded me a lot of the festivals in Ulm that I have visited and or worked at. The tasty food, live music and cheerful atmosphere created a comfortable environment, in which you can let loose and just have a good time. Or as the six-year old Noah Wenk, with whom I watched the fireworks, put it: “Hermannfest, never end!”

Anna Koehler is the Hans Joohs Exchange Intern from Germany who is working at The Journal this month.