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Published: Monday, 8/29/2011

German-American fest ends as rock-solid crowd pleaser

BLADE STAFF
Dawn Krupinsky and her husband, Walter, of St. Clair Shores, Mich., came to Oak Shade Grove dressed and ready to polka along with thousands of others who come to the festival, now in its 46th year. Dawn Krupinsky and her husband, Walter, of St. Clair Shores, Mich., came to Oak Shade Grove dressed and ready to polka along with thousands of others who come to the festival, now in its 46th year.
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A favorite sport of Swiss strongmen, steinstossen also might attract a keen interest from your chiropractor.

Competitors hoist an unwieldy rock above their heads — 75 pounds for the gals, 138 pounds for the guys — and heave it as far as they can.

“It’s pretty much as basic as a sport can get. Find a big boulder and see if you can throw it farther than the other guy,” said Dan Miller, a volunteer who oversees the contest at the German-American Festival in Oregon.

The feat of strength, which traces its origin back hundreds of years, fits in well at a festival where beers like Warsteiner, Spaten, and Lowenbrau flow freely.

Mr. Miller, sporting a Warsteiner button that proclaims life is too short to drink cheap beer, said the event is a crowd pleaser. This year, new bleachers were erected around the sand pit, giving room for some 500 people to plop down and watch.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to see more pictures from the German-American Festival

In its 46th year, the festival is as popular as ever, with thousands of people filing through the gates to sample the dunkel, grab some Wiener schnitzel, or admire the Hummel lookalike contest in which children dress as the famous Hummel figurines and vie to be named most authentic.

Linda Zunk and Kevin Ruedy keep potato pancakes coming. Festival-goers also indulged in lebkuchenherz — gingerbread hearts — schnitzel sandwiches, and more. Linda Zunk and Kevin Ruedy keep potato pancakes coming. Festival-goers also indulged in lebkuchenherz — gingerbread hearts — schnitzel sandwiches, and more.
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“They’ve got anything anybody could want: food, drink, or music,” Bill Chinnis said.

He and his wife of 58 years, Terry, had just come off the dance floor. It had been a few years since the Swanton couple attended the festival, though he said they always enjoy it.

“It seems like a very well put-together outfit. They do a good job,” Mr. Chinnis said.

The festival is put on by a huge team of volunteers and sponsored by Toledo’s seven German and Swiss-American Societies. The organizers expected as many as 30,000 people — many of them wearing lederhosen or dark green alpine hats — to attend the three-day event, which wrapped up yesterday.

The festival draws from all over.

Rachael Hinkle, a 31-year-old who now lives in St. Louis, said she first came to the festival with friends in 2002.

“Ever since then I come as often as I can. Some of that time I lived in Toledo, but whether I live here is irrelevant as to whether I want to come,” she said.

Her trip from Missouri was planned around the festival, and Ms. Hinkle said she’d spent nearly all of her time in town there. Sunday, she was hanging out at the steinstossen tent, waiting on the competition to begin. She got hooked on the competition several years ago.

Customer Joe Liebrecht of Delphos, Ohio, right, gives Toledoan Terry Weaver, left, his order for a cold one. On tap were Warsteiner, Spaten, and Lowenbrau. Customer Joe Liebrecht of Delphos, Ohio, right, gives Toledoan Terry Weaver, left, his order for a cold one. On tap were Warsteiner, Spaten, and Lowenbrau.
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“It just looks like fun,” she said. “How far can I throw a giant stone? Why wouldn’t I want to try it? The first time it’s awkward, and you don’t get it very far, but you get a sense of accomplishment. Even throwing a 75-pound rock 4 feet is impressive.”

On Saturday, Ms. Hinkle had a personal-best throw of 9 feet, 7.5 inches. She was hoping to break 10 feet with one of her Sunday throws. (The competition goes three rounds.)

The overall festival record is 15 feet, 3.5 inches, set in 2009 by Toledoan Kevin Marx.

Though there’s no governing body that tracks such things, Mr. Miller said festival organizers believe that’s the longest throw in the United States and intend to claim it as the U.S. record.

“We may as well,” he said. “Why not?”



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