Germanfest ushers in Headwaters Park festival season

Germanfest traditionally opens with the tapping of a keg. This year’s ceremony was set for 11 a.m. Wednesday, June 5, at Headwaters Park. In this 2017 photo, Mayor Tom Henry is on hand as Judge Ken Scheibenberger opens the festival. Scheibenberger, a key figure in the creation of Germanfest, died in 2018. (Contributed)


FORT WAYNE — Germanfest is German in more ways than ever in 2019, welcoming nine police officers and a 25-student accordion band from Germany and introducing local, German-theme craft beers.

And food, too, of course.

Headwaters Park’s first big festival of the summer season gets underway Wednesday, June 5, with the 11 a.m. tapping of the first keg.

Festival publicist Abby Heidenreich said the popular imports will still be available as Germanfest celebrates the work of local breweries, too.

“We’ve partnered with local breweries,” Heidenreich said. “They’re creating their own take on German beers. So we’re going to have four local beers that are German style beers.”

LaOtto Brewing and Fort Wayne’s own Hop River Brewing Co., Mad Anthony Brewing Co. and Junk Ditch Brewing Co. have created variations on lager, hefewiezen and Pilsner.

“The Northern Indiana Beer Trail Association collaborated and created a schwarzbier,” Heidenreich said in an email. The literal translation is “black beer,” she said.

Those brews will join imports Spaten and Warsteiner dunkel and three popular U.S. brews.

Returning food favorites include bratwurst, schnitzel and fries, Oktoberfest roast chicken, pretzels, sauerkraut, German potato salad, rotkohl (red cabbage), kuchen and more.

The festival runs through Sunday. Entrance is free until 2 p.m., $2 from 2-5 p.m., and $5 after 5 p.m. Military members are admitted free with ID. Children under 14 are admitted free with parent/guardian. Hours are: June 5 and 6, 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; June 7 and 8, 10:30 a.m.-1 a.m.; and June 9, 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Among highlights:

• Thursday, June 6, 6 p.m., at Headwaters Park: Police Pull (new event). Police officers from Fort Wayne’s sister city of Gera, Germany, will take on Fort Wayne police to see who can pull a police armored vehicle faster.

• Friday, June 7, 7 p.m., at the Community Center: Akkordeon Serenade, a 25-member student accordion group visiting Fort Wayne from Gera, Germany, will play polkas, waltzes and familiar pop tunes. Free admission.

• Saturday, June 8, 2 p.m., Headwaters Park: As many as 128 dachshunds from the Greater Fort Wayne area will compete in the Wienderdog Nationals. This is also Familienfest (family day) in the park.

• Sunday, June 9, 11 a.m. Headwaters Park Pavilion: Traditional German Church service at Headwaters Pavilion led by Pastor Chad Trouten. Stay and enjoy lunch and the Germanfest bake-off; judging begins at noon.

See the complete schedule at

Germanfest is marking its 38th year.

Heidenreich, the festival publicist, also is vice president of the German Heritage Society and is in charge of the Germanfest bar. Her father, Judge Ken Scheibenberger, was instrumental in founding Germanfest. Scheibenberger died in 2018.

“We started out as one tent,” Heidenreich said. “We went to two tents and now we’re in the pavilion.” Germanfest was the first of the major downtown themed festivals and is the longest running, she said.

“We highlight polka dancing. We bring in dancers; there’s a local group here in Fort Wayne — the Tanzers — and they perform traditional German Bavarian dancing,” she said. The Tanzers will perform at 2, 4, 6 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

It’s all about meeting and celebrating with others, Heidenreich said. “We have the pavilion set up like Oktoberfest,” she said. “We have big, long tables that promote socialization and meeting with somebody you might not have met before.”