German Fest Weekend in Milwaukee

As every good Milwaukee German knows, this weekend is the 35th Annual German Fest, held at the Summerfest Grounds. From 3 pm until midnight today, July 24th, and from noon to midnight on Saturday, and from noon to 8 pm on Sunday, German Fest will be celebrating all things German – from food, to travel, to history, to tradition, to music…and more!

German Fest is considered Southeastern Wisconsin’s premier German ethnic festival and Milwaukee’s kick-off to Oktoberfest season. Visitors can enjoy wandering through a Handwerker area, where craftsmen and artists display their products while demonstrating their talents. German Fest is also honoring the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall this year. You’re welcome to look through your family tree with the help of genealogists. There’s a lot more in store at German Fest – a Twilight Air Show put on by the Milwaukee Air & Water Show, a Dachshund Derby Race, a Glockenspiel performance, a Schafskopf  Tournament (AKA Sheepshead), and the list goes on.

And don’t forget about the food! Usinger’s is the official sausage of German Fest, and you can expect to see lots of it throughout the weekend. In fact, more than 20,000 Usinger’s Brats are enjoyed by festival attendees each year – and that’s not counting the 10,000 pounds of kraut that is served! Try a “currywurst” – a long bratwurst or pork sausage that is curled and served on a stick with a decadent curry sauce. Follow that currywurst up with some genuine German potato pancakes and a side of sauerkraut. Then, when you’re ready to move onto dessert, try a Bavarian Chocolate Torte or Black Forest Torte. Or, if you’d like to step out onto a limb, try Bienenstich, or “bee sting cake.” According to legend, this dessert got its name when the original baker was stung while retrieving the honey! Try this dessert for yourself, it’s filled with vanilla custard and topped with honeyed almonds.

Of course, these foods aren’t all that’s offered…there’s also Goulasch, Knoedel, Konditorei, Spanferkel, Bratherring, Kartoffel Pfannekuchen…and if you don’t know what those are, then it’s time to make time this weekend for German Fest!

German Fest isn’t the only thing you can do to get your Milwaukee love on…go bowling at JB’s on 41. William Pehle, a German historian, has asserted that bowling began in his country around 300 AD ( When mass German immigration to the United States took place in the 1800s, many German traditions came along for the ride. Yes, the German love for beer came to America, as well as sauerkraut. But another tradition came along, too: the German tradition of organized Sunday recreation. New recreational facilities began to be built – things like picnic grounds, concert halls, playgrounds, and – can you guess? – bowling alleys ( Without our strong German heritage here in Milwaukee, JB’s on 41 might not even exist.

Go on and enjoy German Fest this weekend. Eat your kraut, drink your bier, and raise a toast to your German ancestors who made bowling centers like JB’s on 41 a priority in their new home. Ein Prosit!