GermanFest attendees in 2015. | Courtesy Peter Herdeg

German Fest has expanded in scope and popularity since its founding in 2015 and this year the festival promises to be even bigger and better. Peter Herdeg is again partnering with Fred Leinwebber to put on the annual two-day event. Besides serving traditional German beer, they’ve added two new craft brews from Kinslahger Brewery in Oak Park. Dunkel is a dark beer, while Altbier is an old-fashioned German brew. Another Oak Park entity, Wonder Works Children’s Museum, is staffing a tent with activities for kids. 

The festival will once again feature the finest German band in the area, Phenix. They will play Friday from 4-11:00 PM. They will return to the stage on Saturday, making music from noon-11:00 PM. There’s also going to be new musical entertainment. Amazing Mike from Berwyn plays 20 instruments, sometimes two or three at the same time. 

The menu will once again feature German potato pancakes, with apple sauce and sour cream. Other traditional Teutonic treats will be served, including bratwurst, thuringer and Landjaeger (a/k/a German “Slim Jims”). They will come with side dishes, like German potato salad and sauerkraut. There will also be American cuisine, including hamburgers, hot dogs and roasted corn.

Health-conscious customers can enjoy the funnel cakes and Kiwanis is running the cotton candy concession. The mouth-watering menu also features fresh squeezed lemonade, blooming onions and nachos. Last year, the festival drew over 1,000 customers and they managed to put away 16 barrels of beer. 

Herdeg wanted to thank the many volunteers that are making it possible. Parishioners from St. Bernardines and members of the Fraternal Order of Eagles are pitching in. He also mentioned that Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone, Executive Secretary Sally Cody, the fire department and public works have been very helpful. 

The festival is sponsored by two German singing organizations, Herdeg’s Forest Park’s Harlem Manner- und Damenchor and Leinwebber’s Deutsch Amerikanischer National Kongress (DANK).  Many local businesses are also acting as sponsors, including Shanahan’s, Louie’s Grill and Altenheim. Local vendors will also be on hand, such as Oak Park Crafters, the Historical Society of Forest Park and Tasty Vending from Buffalo Grove.

Customers are not required to wear lederhosen and dirndls but it is encouraged. Herdeg sees it as Oktoberfest in June. German Fest kicks off on June 9th at 4:00 PM, at the Altenheim Grove, 7824 Madison, Forest Park, IL. There is a $2 entrance fee. The oompah music will continue until June 10th at 11:00 PM. Herdeg is once again hoping for fair weather. “In Europe, the weather god is Peter, so I have connections.”

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.