German Park celebrates 75th anniversary and first picnic of 2013
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"Willkommen" was the greeting hundreds of people entering German Park in Northfield Township heard Saturday afternoon. It wast the park's first picnic of 2013 and its 75th anniversary.
"There are second and third generations of Germans here today because we take pride in our heritage," said Klaus Kummer, a member of the German Park Recreation Club, who estimates as many as 4,000 guests would show up Saturday. "They come hungry and they come thirsty!"
The park hosts three picnics a year on the last Saturday of the month in June, July and August.
Immigrants from Germany began coming to the Ann Arbor area in 1830, which led to many German businesses in the area as well as German churches, choirs and even a German cornet band. It was 75 years ago in 1938 when a group of German immigrants got together to buy a piece of property north of the city that became known as German Park.
"The founders of German Park wanted to create the German atmosphere," explained Martin Boos, president of the German Park Recreation Club. "They bought the dance hall (Thompsen Halle) and over the years have added buildings as well as a new dance hall with a pavilion and a new kitchen and bar."
"I'm here for a fun time and the beer," said Leslie Stalker from Hamburg Township in Livingston County.
Her husband Scott Stalker has been coming to German Park since he was a little boy.
"I used to play cribbage with my parents here," he said. "This place is always busy."
"I've been meaning to come for years," Stacy Stephens from Ypsilanti said. "I heard that it's a riot."
Doreen Groth came Saturday with her husband and children. She's from Lake Orion but originally from Germany.
"I was surprised to find a place like this here," said Groth.
There are currently 120 members in the German Park Recreation Club as well as a number of honorary members, which means that they are over 70-years-old. The club offers golf tournaments and trips, including some to Germany.
Saturday's German Park Picnic was scheduled to run from 4 to 11 p.m. The other picnics this summer are scheduled for July 27 and Aug. 31.
The dance band Die Dorfmusikanten was performing Saturday along with the German Park Trachtengruppe Dancers.
Another draw is the Deutsch KÃ¼che, which offers traditional German foods like bratwurst, knackwurst, sauerkraut, spatzen, potato salad and strudel. A variety of German beers and wines is also available.
Boos, whose job transferred him to the Ann Arbor area in 1997, discovered German Park thanks to his wife.
"She brought me here, and It reminded me of home," he said. "I enjoy the camaraderie."
Boos says the location for German Park, which is at 5549 Pontiac Trail, was chosen because the founders wanted a big piece of land located in Washtenaw County close to Ann Arbor.
To what does Boos attribute the longevity and popularity of German Park?
"Tradition has been passed on and we keep it alive," said Boos. "We are one big family, and we still have the kids of the founding members here."
Nana Glauch came from Ann Arbor to hear her parents play in the band Die Dorfmusikanten. She brought her cousin Max Smieskol, who is visiting from Baden, Germany.
"This place looks more like Germany than Germany," said Smiskol.
Learn more about German Park at its website.