The annual Strassenfest kicks off this year on August 2-5 in Jasper, Indiana. A fun-filled three day festival, the Strassenfest is rife with history and sentimentality for the many citizens of the Jasper area who are of German descent. Living just outside of Jasper for the past 3 years, my family has had occasion to join in the Strassenfest fun, learning about the history behind the celebration as we enjoy bratwurst and funnel cakes down on the square.
This time of year, the city of Jasper is brightly and prolifically decorated with black, red and gold flags that proudly stand for this German-American town and raise in salute to not only Jasper, but to Pfaffenweiler-a sister city in Germany where many families of German descent are in contact these days with relatives and friends for the first time since the era of and following the two world wars. This community’s street festival is a way for folks to preserve Jasper’s heritage and socialize with family, friends and neighbors as well. The Strassenfest brings in many, even thousands, of folks from outside the area for the events. This brings a great boost to the local economy.
The Strassenfest celebration consists of several traditional festivities, such as a Children’s Box Parade, atheletic events like a golf scramble and basketball tournament as well as a chili cookoff and quilt show. During the Strassenfest, many shops down and around Jasper’s square have exhibits showing antique versions of their modern-day wares or attention getting setups that bring folks to their doors, while churches and civic groups from the area set up booths for food ,crafts and a wide variety of fun-filled, good time games.
To add some personal, first-hand experiences, our first Strassenfest experience the year of our move to the area was a good one. The most memorable of the activities for us was the Hot-Air Balloon Race. Taking place in the fields across from Jasper Engines, the balloon race is a hot-air balloon race where folks can watch the hot-air balloons being raised from start to lift-off. It is a fun, neat experience to watch the balloons rise, see the bellows fire and hope all the hot-air balloons lift-off without mishap. There are often a few balloons that do not make it up into the race due to tears in the balloon fabric or other various issues that keep the hot-air balloon grounded. The hot-air balloon race is one where accuracy is paramount, more important than speed. In order to win, the balloon pilot must land his craft closest to a target put in place by the lead balloon. The picture included in this article is of my favorite hot-air balloon we saw at the race.
The Strassenfest’s biggest draw is Sunday afternoon with a 2 hour long, music laden, candy-tossing parade that travels through town, with waving townspeople and local business folks as well as a few local politicians waving in there as well. The night brings a fireworks bash to end the Strassenfest for another year.
Definitely a unique and fun community street fair, the Strassenfest is a local icon of German-American heritage, the city of Jasper and American summertime.