A Taste of Germany in Michigan’s Little Bavaria

If you seek something different to explore this summer in Pure Michigan, look no further than Frankenmuth! Guest blogger Shannon Ciszek of the Bavarian Festival Committee shares some can’t-miss festivals when visiting Michigan’s own little Bavaria.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB.

There is often confusion between the Oktoberfest and other German festivals because they typically embrace the German tradition of drinking beer.  However, many of these festivals have a very different story than the Oktoberfest and surprisingly little to do with beer.

Michigan’s Little Bavaria, Frankenmuth, is true to its roots with a year-long celebration of beer and the town’s heritage.  They do host an amazing Oktoberfest (September 17-20, 2015) and in 1996, Frankenmuth’s Oktoberfest was declared the first Oktoberfest outside of Munich to operate with the blessing of the original Oktoberfest in Munich.

With Frankenmuth’s unique German heritage and culture, the Frankenmuth Oktoberfest strives to preserve the sights and sounds of the Munich Oktoberfest.

The Bavarian Festival in Frankenmuth celebrates something much different, and from June 11-14th you can experience the difference.  It began as a grand-opening celebration when, in 1959, the Bavarian Inn Restaurant was remodeled to celebrate the heritage of its town’s people.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB.

Much of town began to follow suit.  Throughout the years, things were added such as a Bavarian Princess Court to represent the community at neighboring festivals.  And this year’s festival will include a German Car Show.

The festival continues to be a local celebration of the community’s roots and offers some unique ceremonies and traditions that are common in the spring or early summer.

As the oldest German festival in Michigan, it is one of the rare places you can watch a traditional Maibaum (Maypole) Celebration whereas the organizers spend hours selecting just the right tree to use and then host a ceremony where all guests can watch them erect the tree which becomes the center of many of the festivities.  The Maibaum dancers perform with beautiful ribbons around the pole, in traditional fashion, to celebrate and greet the summer in their beautiful Dirndls.

The event is truly a family affair with many community events to celebrate Frankenmuth’s Bavarian heritage.  And you don’t have to be from Frankenmuth to enjoy and celebrate with them.  Nearly 100,000 people often line the Bavarian Festival Parade Route which caps off the festivities on Sunday.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB.

The children’s parade and amusements remind us this is an event for the young and young at heart.

With community groups serving German food and pretzels being served all weekend long, it is truly a Bavarian celebration.   And of course, even though it isn’t just about the beer, it wouldn’t be a Bavarian celebration without beer and polka so they have that too!

Author: Shannon Ciszek, Bavarian Festival Committee

What festivals in Pure Michigan do you plan to attend this summer?

One thought on “A Taste of Germany in Michigan’s Little Bavaria

  1. I grew up in Clio, 10 miles south of Frankenmuth, and as a child I spent countless Sundays having chicken dinner, touring the gift shops and going to the old fashioned candy store for penny candy. Our extended family held our annual Christmas dinner and reunion in one of the private rooms at Bavarian Inn or Zehnder’s, and every year we replaced our broken Christmas ornaments with a shopping trip at Bronner’s. When my children were small we’d visit Grandma and Grandpa in Clio and the visit always involved a dinner and evening in Frankenmuth. When my Mom passed away over a year ago, we held her remembrance service in a private room at Zehnder’s. I’m 55 years old now and have lived in New York City for over 25 years, and I’ve traveled the world, but Frankenmuth holds more meaning for me than anywhere I’ve been. It’s a magical place.

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