My friend, Jared, who grew up in Jasper, said I would love Jasper’s annual Strassenfest (Straßenfest, if you can write in German). It’s the annual festival dedicated to the city’s German heritage, back when a large group of Germans moved to this part of the state and settled down.
I’ve been to Jasper many times, but never during the first week of August, when Strassenfest is held (August 2 – 5, this year), and every year I promise myself I’ll go next year. (I’ve been making that promise since 1998. Maybe next year will be the year.)
The festival officially kicks off this year on Thursday, August 2 at 6:15, when Meredith Voegerl, the Strassenfest Chairperson, gets the beer barrel rolling. Thursday night will have visitors lining up to see the Stein Holding Contest (hold a beer stein of water — about 3 pounds — parallel to your shoulder blades for as long as you can), a log sawing contest, and polka and chicken dance contests.
Friday will see the Jasper Golf Scramble, the $100,000 Hole-In-One shootout, a hot air balloon race, a softball tournament, and hours upon hours of live music, with more polka and chicken dance contests.
You want to show up at lunchtime on Saturday, because they’ll have a BBQ contest, and they usually end up selling their entries after the contest is over. Of course, you’ll want to save room in case you showed up for the Pancake Breakfast at 8:00 that morning. There’s a 5K run/walk, an arts festival featuring arts and crafts made by area artists, softball and volleyball tournaments (not at the same time), a road rally (combination road race and scavenger hunt), and even a homebrew contest for you real beer fans. There are also more bands, dance performances, and live acts than you’ll see at some music festivals. And yes, polka and chicken dance contests.
Sunday is traditionally a day of rest, which is why this day’s activities are a tiny fraction of what was happening on Saturday. But there’s still enough to bring you back for one more day. One more golf tournament, one more chance to win $100,000 in the Hole-In-One shootout. There are even a couple of church masses, a quilt show, and the Strassenfest Parade, one of the largest parades in all of Southern Indiana. Surprisingly, no polka or chicken dance contests this night. The winners will go home, rest their feet, and dream about next year’s contests.
Maybe it’s a good thing I’m not going to the Strassenfest this year. I’m not really in shape, and I’m tired just thinking about everything that’s going on in the little German city in southern Indiana.
Photo credit: Thomas Jung (Flickr, Creative Commons)