Experienced planners craft successful German festival

September 18, 2018

JEFFERSON -- After all the experience its planners have, it’s no surprise when Gemuetlichkeit Days is another success in Jefferson, as it was again in 2018.

The three-day fest left President Judy Wollin “tired but fine” this morning.

“We thought our attendance numbers were down Friday, but Saturday they were really good with Randy Meisner performing, along with our other acts,” Wollin said.

Wollin said a wedding party came in Saturday night to celebrate with the band Cherry Pie.

“A Badger Bus rolled up and they all came in for Cherry Pie,” Wollin said. “We also had a number of children in the ethnic costume contest -- 25 to be exact. We also had other outside activities for the children. We had 30 children in the Children’s Stein Carrying Contest.”

Wollin said the parade went very well Sunday in the downtown area, with beautiful, but hot weather for the 82 unit event.

There were 100 players for the euchre tournament and 33 for the sheepshead competition.

“The numbers were down a little for the sheepshead, but only by six players from last year. Who knows why the numbers are up or down a little from previous years with all the late-summer activities that are taking place on the weekends,” Wollin said.

The October meeting is set for organizers and at that time they will be assessing this year’s event to start their planning for 2019, which marks the 49th Annual Gemuetlichkeit Days. Wollin said a new barbecue competition could be in the making for Year No. 49.

The 48th annual Gemuetlichkeit Days celebration was a reunion of sorts to many people who enjoy the fun activities associated with the German heritage. Whether German or not, folks have looked forward to the annual event to meet old friends and enjoy a little Gemuetlichkeit.

The activities actually begin in May when the king and queen for the year are selected and begin their summerlong effort to promote the week of activities.

A part of the Gemuetlichkeit Days celebration includes a grand march and the introduction of past royalty. In the 48 years since the activities began many of the former kings or queens have passed away. Their names are now on the clouds above the dance floor in the activity center at the Jefferson County Fair Park.

Polka lovers come back each year for the variety of polka music and dancing under the clouds. Many of them dressed in lederhosen and typical German attire have been coming since the event began.

Dave Manke remembered coming with his parents, Marge and Gary, when the event started under two tents down by the river in downtown Jefferson. He said, “My parents were at Gemuetlichkeit Days celebration right up until they passed away. They helped a lot with it and someone once suggested their names should be on the clouds but that is reserved for former kings and queens.”

Like so many of the volunteers involved in the event, the Mankes worked behind the scenes and did a lot of promoting.

Dave and his wife Laura now bring their daughter, Morgan, dressed in German attire to enjoy the activities. Now 7 years old, she has been coming since she was a baby.

Ashippun polka dancers Roger and Millie Kopfer said they also came to the event every year since it started. They enjoy the German celebrations and dancing and like an excuse to put on their German attire and go to Jefferson to meet up with other friends who have made this event a tradition.

Gary and Lois Gustafson have enjoyed the entire week of Gemuetlichkeit Days activities since it began. While Lois originates from Jefferson, the couple has lived in Janesville for many years.

He has saved every button from the event since it began. He’s proud of his collection and at least one day of the weekend he will wear a vest that has every button on it.

“It’s getting a little heavy now, especially for dancing,” he said.

He actually lost one of his buttons during the parade one year and searched for a long time to find someone willing to part with one to replace it. That’s when he found that there are also other collectors who didn’t want to give up any of their buttons.

He has saved all of the pictures and memorabilia of the event from the start, too. He said, “I recently got everything together and gave it to the committee so they would have it in the future.”

Dick Blaha, Milwaukee, a member of the Wisconsin Polka Boosters, enjoys giving polka dance lessons. He and that organization have been giving the lessons each year at Gemuetlichkeit Days, hoping to encourage more young people to learn the dance that older folks have loved for so many years.

Even though the temperatures were in the upper 80s on Saturday afternoon, he said they still had about 20 dancers take advantage of the opportunity to learn the polka.

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