(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — Bratwurst. Strudel. Beer. Sometimes, even a few keywords are enough to get a fella excited. Here are a few more keywords: Lederhosen; dancing; music (“Valeri, Valera” anybody?).
German Heritage Fest begins in Erie on Saturday, Sept. 3. Swaying steins, spinning dirndls, and bellowing voices will fill the grounds of St. Nick’s Grove at 5131 Old French Road. It all kicks off with a parade of flags at noon on Saturday, Sept. 3.
Melissa Lesniewski is the festival co-chair with Ray Luniewski. She’s been at the helm of the festival for about five years. She took over for her mother, Beverly Pochatko, who had founded the festival nearly three decades ago.
“She wanted people to know that Germans have fun,” Lesniewski said. “And she wanted to share the heritage. We lose that as the older generation passes on — all of those things don’t get passed down.”
Pochatko is still active in the festival, but most of the administrative duties have now been shifted to Lesniewski and Luniewski.
Following the parade of flags, the festival will immediately continue into dancing and music. The tapping of the official keg will be followed by the first official toast.
“We get people that come to the festival every year. They come from Pittsburgh, they come from Erie,” Lesniewski said. “There’s a specific group that comes in every year, the set up in the corner of the tent early in the morning and they stay the whole day.”
Food includes bratwurst, braunschweiger, limburger cheese and ham and cheese sandwiches, German potato salad, German dinners, strudel, German cake, and other typical foods one might expect at any festival, like ice cream, kettle corn, funnel cakes and cheese cake.
Entertainment includes Pittsburgh band Mädel Jäger, The Mad Bavarian, Alpen Schuhplattler Dancers, and Youngstown Saxon Brass Band.
The Festival closes for the day at 8 p.m. on Saturday, but at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 4, the German fun begins again. Admission is $5 per person per day, or $8 for a two-day pass.
“All the money that comes in from the gates pays for the grounds, the entertainment, the chairs and the tents. That’s what keeps us going,” Lesniewski said.
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“It’s about getting together and being able to share music and dance and food and drink,” Lesniewski said. “I’m looking forward to it. It looks like the weather is going to be great.”