Annual Schlachtfest celebrating German culture in central Illinois

DUNLAP, Ill. (WMBD) — Kicking off German-American Heritage Month in central Illinois, the annual Schlachtfest returned to Dunlap on Sunday afternoon.

Members of the Peoria German-American Central Society said it was one of their most popular traditions at Hickory Grove Park, from dances and drinks to live bands and Bavarian cuisine.

Both Larry Hackmann and his wife Shirley said they love the month of October, especially when festivals celebrating German culture kick off.

“We love doing all of this because we love dressing up and dancing,” Larry said. “They always have good German music.”

Event organizers said Schlachtfest, or slaughter festival, is an old German tradition linked to the slaughter of animals in the fall before winter sets in.

“It’s a celebration of when they used to slaughter hogs and cows and slaughter them for the winter,” said Jeff Pulfer, media manager for the Peoria German-American Society. “Make sausages or smoked hams.”

Pulfer said the Society had to cancel a few of its events earlier this year due to the pandemic. He said they had promoted safety first, encouraged mask-wearing and scaled down the festival slightly this year.

“We are maintaining social distancing,” Pulfer said. “So to maintain social distancing, we have less activity here than normal.”

He said some of those activities included car cruisers and craftsmen, but he said the show had to go on.

The Hackmanns said that once the German festival season starts, they try to come to at least one event a month. They said they were always looking for an opportunity to dress up and show off their dance moves.

“If you go to a dance, you don’t get a lot of waltzes,” Larry said. “But the Germans like to play waltzes.”

“And Polka,” Shirley said. “They play a lot”

“It’s our favorite dance,” Larry said.

They said it’s been difficult to find many festivals this year, so they’re happy that Schlachtfest lives on, keeping them connected to their German roots.