It's a Schmeckfest: German Wedding, Baptism - and Food - Highlight Eureka's German Festival

Tobin, Paulette. "It's a Schmeckfest: German Wedding, Baptism - and Food - Highlight Eureka's German Festival." Grand Forks Herald, 5 September 1999.

A German wedding and a baptism and, of course, lots of German food will be part of the festivities at the 10th annual German-Russian Schmeckfest in Eureka, S.D., the weekend of Saturday, Sept. 18.

A celebration of the community's ethnic heritage, the Schmeckfest has grown from a German meal sponsored by the local Germans from Russia Heritage Society to three days of activities, including a German dinner, parade, a musical variety show, an antique and classic car and tractor show, and singing and dancing.

"The in-town people appreciate it, but it's the out-of-town people that just love it because it's a bit of their heritage they can relive," said Laurel Stickelmeyer, Schmeckfest chair.

Eureka, a town of about 1,200 people about 75 miles northwest of Aberdeen, S.D., is a community where many people still speak German. Its restaurants are known for their German dishes, its meat market for its German sausage and the local bakery for its kuchen, a German coffee cake filled with custard and fruit. Earlier this year Eureka residents lobbied unsuccessfully to get the Legislature to make kuchen the official state dessert of South Dakota.

Eureka, first known as Petersburg, was incorporated in 1887 when the railroad arrived. Eureka was the end of the tracks until 1902, when the railroad pushed through to Linton, N.D., but for those 15 years it was the jumping-off place for thousands of Germans from Russia who poured into the Dakotas.

It also became a major point for wheat shipping. In 1892 farmers were bringing wheat to Eureka from as far as 60 miles away and the Milwaukee Road shipped $2 million worth of wheat out of Eureka, making it the primary wheat production center of the world.

This year's Schmeckfest (from a German word that means "to taste") begins Friday evening and ends Sunday afternoon, but most events are Saturday. Downtown there will be crafts, a car and tractor show, ethnic food and music and a parade. A shuttle will run between downtown and the Eureka Pioneer Museum, which will be the site of one of the day's more unique events: a real German wedding, or hochzeit, in the little country church on the museum grounds

Stickelmeyer said the Schmeckfest committee advertised for and found a couple who wanted to marry and who were willing to say their vows in German. After the nuptials there will be a sampling of traditional German wedding foods, including wedding kuchen and non-alcoholic hochzeit schnapps. (The real stuff is made of 190-proof alcohol and burnt sugar.) In the afternoon an infant will be baptized, also at the museum church.

Many of the food demonstrations will be filmed for a German foodways documentary that will premiere on Prairie Public Television in March 2000, said Michael Miller of Fargo, bibliographer for the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at NDSU Libraries.

Miller, along with Bob Dambach, the producer of Prairie Public Television, and Dave Geck and Tapio Kube, also of PPTV, will be in Eureka for the Schmeckfest filming. Miller said the new documentary is a follow-up to PPTV's award-winning documentary, "Germans from Russia: Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie."

Part of that documentary that showed Amanda Fetzer of Wishek, N.D., and her daughter, Lorraine Ketterling of Bismarck, making strudles has sparked a great deal of interest in traditional German food, Miller said.

Many who attend Eureka's Schmeckfest consider the Saturday night dinner and entertainment the festival's high point. The meal, including German pork sausage, knoephla with kraut, Swiss steak, potatoes, watermelon pickles, kuchen and pfefferneuse cookies, will begin at 5:30 p.m. with entertainment following at 7 p.m. Two public dances, one country and one old-time music, will finish off the festivities on Saturday.

Zion Lutheran Church will be the site of a non-denominational German church service at 11 a.m. Sunday, followed by a songfest at 2 p.m.

"Schmeckfest Musts"
Eureka German-Russian Schmeckfest highlights

Friday, Sept. 17
8 p.m., Eureka Bandstand musical variety show, Lyric Theater. Tickets at the door, $5

Saturday, Sept. 18
Downtown, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Costume judging, German food sales, classic and antique car and tractor show, craft show, old-time music, parade at 3 p.m.

Eureka Pioneer Museum: 11:30 a.m., German wedding; 1 p.m., German baptism. Also kuchen contest, demonstrations of shelling corn, old-time barbershop and beauty salon and more 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., Eureka Bandstand musical variety show, Lyric Theater. Tickets, $5

5:30 p.m., Schmeckfest dinner, Eureka High School gym. Entertainment, 7 p.m., includes From The Heart of Eureka, a women's trio; German humorist and singer Mylo Hatzenbuhler of Bismarck, N.D.; the Emter Family band of Glen Ullin, N.D., and Fallcreek, a barbershop quartet from Grand Forks. Advance tickets required, $12.50, call 605-284-2455. (Tickets for entertainment only on sale at the door for $6.)

Late evening: Two public dances featuring old-time and country music

Sunday, Sept. 19
11 a.m., German service at Zion Lutheran Church
2 p.m., Song fest at Zion Lutheran Church

Reprinted with permission of the Grand Forks Herald.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller