Prost! German culture shines at Fiesta Gartenfest 2024

Bratwurst, homemade strudel, pretzels, reubens, goulash and Kartoffelpuffer are included in a vast menu of specialty foods that fed a hungry crowd.

SAN ANTONIO — The smell of authentic German cuisine is filling the air in Southtown.

Bratwurst, homemade strudel, pretzels, reubens, goulash and Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes with apple sauce) are included in a vast menu of specialty foods that fed a hungry crowd.

Fiesta Gartenfest kicked off Wednesday, and is bigger and better than ever.

Volunteers tell us the line to enter on opening day was the longest they’d ever seen.

The Beethoven Maennerchor is the oldest singing society in Texas that started in the “Saurkraut Bend” — also known as Southtown.

San Antonio’s German history dates back to the mid 19th century.

“A lot of people don’t realize Germans came in the 1850’s from Germany because of religious and political persecution,” explained David Uhler, President of Beethoven Maennerchor.

The area of Southtown where the singing society/beer garden is located is particularly German.

“You’ve got the Pioneer Flour Mills powered by the Guenther Family. They called this bend of the river ‘Sourkraut Bend’ because there’s so many Germans here,” said Uhler.

Every year when Fiesta Fanatics walk through the gates, they’re supporting Beethoven Maennerchor’s mission to preserve German culture, heritage and music in San Antonio.

“We’ve got a museum, we’ve got the choirs, we have German language classes here,” Uhler added.

So what does it take to feed a hungry crowd?

“We have 50 pounds of potatoes, so that’s probably 300 pancakes,” said Arlen, a volunteer cooking potato pancakes alongside his daughter, Lisa.

5,000 buns and 800 pounds of saurkraut are ready to serve bratwurst alone.

“The bratwurst comes from Milwaukee from the Usinger’s Sausage Company,” said Uhler. “The souerkraut we imported from Germany of course.”

For the first time, the dessert menu will include homemade strudel.

“I just love the reuben, it just melts in your mouth!” said Eva Reil, who was among the first to walk in the Gartenfest gates.

She and her husband, Henry, are the newest members of Beethoven Maennerchor.

“I’m half German, so there’s a little roots to it,” said Henry, who has enjoyed the unique Gartenfest for years. “It’s a nice twist because a lot of [events] are pretty close to the same, but this one is very different. Lederhosen with medals, kind of a great twist!”

Wednesday’s honorable guests: Fiesta Military Ambassadors. Thursday, King Antonio will grace the Gartenfest crowd, followed by El Rey Feo on Friday.

“We walk through some of these crowds getting the claps, none of us joined for that. It’s very humbling to get that,” said HM1 Michael Francisco Camacho, one of Wednesday’s Fiesta Military Ambassadors.

Camacho, a hospital corpsman in the Navy, says the group’s role is to get to know the people in their community. Camacho moved to Military City USA in August from Connecticut.

“I’ve been in for just a little over 17 years and this is probably the most attention I’ve ever had for being in the military,” said Camacho. “It does feel comforting knowing people do care.”

Fiesta Gartenfest continues through Friday from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. at the Beethoven Maanerchor, located at 422 Pereida Street.

If you won’t make the Fiesta fun, the German cuisine and the good times are at Beethoven Maennerchor year-round.

Check out some more photos from the event:

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