By ALLEN LAMAN
JASPER – Laura Grammer dreams big. And then she rolls it up.
Before conceiving and planning the activities that were part of Jasper Strassenfest’s revamped opening night on Thursday, she thought about the detailed choreography and fanfare leading up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
As she sweated in the heat of the 2017 launch event, she wondered. What if she could organize something like this to captivate an audience that regularly fills the downtown plaza?
“Wouldn’t it be so cool if people could come to Jasper Strassenfest and feel like they’re in Little Germany,” Grammer, who is the festival’s liaison for German Heritage Night, said in an interview Thursday. “They’re here and they can do all this stuff for free, and they’re going to buy food, and they’re going to be involved in all of this. How many people would that bring each year? »
These questions will guide her approach to hosting the first night of the annual event going forward, as she seeks to find more and more guests for the four-day party.
The first results: Thursday’s opening ceremonies included song and dance, in addition to traditional speeches, and immediately after the introduction ended, festival-goers of all ages could watch and learn the steps of traditional German dances and play a simple dice game that gave free candy. by Chocolate Bliss.
“It’s like the audience involvement,” said Brenda Heeke of Jasper, who participated in the Schuhplattler dance along with a host of other fans. “And that’s what I thought was great. Because the audience was involved in it. It’s not like we just sit there watching them, but it’s like we have to do something.
Introducing children to the festival and the city’s heritage is also important to Grammer. A group of children sang in a Kinderchor – a “children’s choir” – during the opening ceremonies, and they also wove ribbons around a flagpole, which is “Maibaum” in German.
Victoria Gunselman, 9, was part of the festivities. She wanted to sing in the choir because it sounded fun, and after it was over she smiled and said it was. Her father, Josh, said the activity was a way for his daughter to experience being in front of a crowd and learn about the city’s history.
“We have to know where we come from to get where we are going,” Josh said of Strassenfest and what it does for the city. “It’s a big economic boost for the community, so understanding why we’re doing this stuff helps extend it into the future.”
As Lynn Wagner’s daughters Ella and Ally played Schokospiel — which means “chocolate game” — mom expressed a similar sentiment. She has noticed that more and more children are getting involved in the festival over the years, and sees the value of introducing young people to the traditions of their ancestors in a simple way.
“They’ve definitely become more curious and questioning our German heritage,” Lynn said of her daughters. “And it’s been a good learning experience for them to see all of this activity.”
And that’s just the beginning.
“If we can just keep building on that year after year, and add more stuff and keep things growing, it could be like a free Disney World,” Grammer said. “Or a Disney World that might cost you $20 to do this or $10 to do that. But that’s assuming I’m not out of ideas.
The complete Strassenfest program is available at jasperstrassenfest.org. Party-related activities will run until Sunday evening.