18 November, 2014


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Another Successful Year Celebrating German-Swiss Culture at the 47th Annual GAF

Toledo – Held at Oak Shade Grove in Oregon, Ohio, the German American Festival (GAF) proved yet again why it has become the oldest and largest ethnic festival in the Toledo area. From Aug. 24 through 26, more than 34,000 attendees wandered the festival grounds and enjoyed the best in Swiss and German culture. From entertainment by Austrian Express from Milwaukee, to a multitude of authentic dining options and plenty of German and domestic beers, there was something for everyone to enjoy.

“We were really pleased with the size of the crowds at this year’s festival,” said Chairman Tim Pecsenye. “We were especially happy to welcome many service men and women in Toledo for Navy Week.” The crisp white uniforms stood out among the crowds and allowed the locals to identify and thank the individuals for their service to this country. “I hope they didn’t mind being constantly stopped by visitors wanting to offer thanks for service – and maybe a salute.”

Just as in past years, food was consumed in impressive quantities at the festival. Over 5 tons of potatoes were used to make handmade potato pancakes, hand-cut Pommes Frites (French Fries) and 4,000 pounds of homemade German potato salad. Guests enjoyed over 275 gallons of Sauerkraut along with more than19,000 bratwurst. An impressive 1,500 of the new Swiss cheese and mushroom bratwurst were purchased, outsold only by the popular Schnitzel Sandwich, which came in at 1,900 sold. Sweet cravings were satisfied with more than 3,500 servings of cake, cookies and other desserts.

“People are always looking for a way to stretch their entertainment budget,” said Pecsenye. “The GAF has worked hard to keep prices constant over the years, while at the same time offering additional saving opportunities with the help of texting campaigns and social media outlets. And the event is a great way for local residents to enjoy a vacation-like atmosphere in their own backyard. Where else are you going to see a Swiss Steinstossen (rock throwing) and Swiss cheese eating contest but at the German-American Festival?”

The increased number of service lines made food service more efficient and enjoyable for guests and workers alike. The addition of a photo booth was a great source of entertainment for festival-goers. The photos were displayed on large screens throughout the grounds, along with other candid photos. This added to the spirit of the festival and was a great way for guests to enjoy every aspect of the event.

“We encourage our guests to come out and enjoy themselves and we want them to do so responsibly and return home safely,” Pecsenye said. “I’m happy to report that the shuttle service was well received again this year, with buses often filled to capacity.”

The kids enjoyed face painting, strolling performers and balloon animals. Shrieks of delight could be heard from the amusement park rides as the young and young at heart braved the Merry-go-round, Tilt-a-whirl and the 80-foot Ferris wheel.

Social media proved to be an important aspect of this year’s event promotion. The German American Festival Facebook page was abuzz in the weeks leading up to the event. It was here that people, from near and far, could get real time updates about the event. Fans shared, liked and posted content surrounding the festival at an impressive rate. Followers to the new GAF Society Twitter page climbed throughout the weekend as guests tweeted with the hashtag #GAF.

“The GAF is all about connecting and celebrating a culture we take great pride in,” explained Pecsenye. “It is great to see the next generation making these connections online. It means we have successfully transitioned to an era of technology while still preserving our traditions.”

The Masskrugstemmen, which loosely translates to the lifting of a liter mug of beer, took place on Friday and Saturday. Contestants held the “Masskrug” with one arm completely stretched out and parallel to the floor. The current U.S. record is just over 14 minutes, but contestants made an impressive effort.


Friday Winners


1st – Denise Miller – 1:44

2nd – Carrie Quigg – 1:40

3rd– Stacy Glass – 1:36


1st – Luke Wunderlin – 4:43

2nd – Rodney Varnes – 4:28

3rd – John Reef – 4:13


Saturday - Winners


1st – Amber Landsman

– 3:18

2nd – Cynthia Marvey – 2:09

3rd – Jeanine Smith – 2:02


1st – Aaron Hensley – 5:05

2nd – Scott Hoffman – 4:55

3rd – Robert Pawlinski – 4:33

For those who were interested in more of a challenge, the Swiss Steinstossen took place on Saturday and Sunday. The stones thrown in this traditional contest weigh in at 138 pounds for the men and 75 pounds for the women.


Saturday – Winners


1st – Elissa Ackerman 9‘-9“

2nd – Rachael Hinkle 9‘-6“

3rd – Janice Sowers 8‘-2“


1st – Zach Diekman 13‘-7“

2nd – Kevin Jennings Jr. 12‘-3.5“

3rd – Joe Bronowski 12‘-2“


Sunday – Winner


1st – Elissa Ackerman 10‘

2nd – Rachael Hinkle 9‘-6.5“

3rd – Laura Berlincourt 8‘-11“


1st – Joe Bronowski 13‘-11“

2nd – Nick Radel 12‘-3“

3rd – Brad Hutchison 11‘-1.5“

This years judges for the 4th German Cookie Baking Contest were Dana Illiev and Laurie Jacobs, owners of Cake In A Cup and Dan Neman, food editor for The Blade. The GAF Society would like to thank Ventura’s on Bancroft for their donation of prizes and the Sentinel-Tribune for cookbook donations.



1st – Christine Suplica of Temperance, MI – Spitzbuben, German jam cookies

2nd – Kristie Ruedy of Toledo, OH – Spitzbuben

3rd – Elizabeth Deal of Toledo, OH – Vanille Kirferl

This year saw the introduction of two new events that are sure to become festival favorites, the Brezlen Essen and Swiss cheese eating contest. Both events were a huge success and the festival committee looks forward to the contests growing even bigger in the coming years. Spectators in the Hofbrauhalle looked on as Branden finished 8 soft baked pretzels – over 8,000 pretzels were sold over the weekend – in the allotted 5-minute time frame. Crowds gathered in the Swiss Essen Haus to watch as contestants competed to see who could eat 8 ounces of Swiss cheese in the fastest time.



1st – Kevin Gross – 2:22

2nd – Don Zellers – 3:10

3rd – William Keller – 3:12

This year was the second for the GAF to sponsor 50/50 raffles. Over the course of the three-day event nine winners took home a combined total of over $6,000.


Friday Winners

1st – Phil Henderson – Holland, OH

2nd –Donn Cranor –Blissfield, MI

3rd – Matt Tylka – Ottawa Lake, MI


Saturday Winners

1st – Leonard Klaege – Walbridge, OH

2nd – David Steer – Perrysburg, OH

3rd – Franz Papesch – Oregon, OH


Sunday Winners

1st – Hector Lopez – Toledo, OH

2nd – Denny Czesak – Lambertville, MI

3rd – Mike Halka – Oregon, OH

“We would like to acknowledge the countless volunteers who contribute so much time and effort each year. Without them an event of this success and magnitude would not be possible and we would love to see you all back next year,” explains Pecsenye. “We would also like to thank the administrators and employees of the City of Oregon, the Oregon City School District and employees, and neighbors in the area for their patience and help throughout this past weekend.”

Additionally, the GAF provided monetary donations to Northwood High School and Cardinal Stritch High School Girls’ Soccer Teams and the Clay Athletic Boosters in appreciation for all their time donated towards clean up and parking efforts.

St. Louis Helping Hands Ministry, St. Paul’s Community Center and Food for Thought, and their partner organizations, benefited from the leftover food. The festival donated almost a truckload of items to help with feeding the homeless, low-income and elderly in the Greater Toledo Area.

It was another great year for the German-American Festival, and according to chairman Pecsenye, the committee has already started work on next year’s festival. The 48th Annual German-American Festival will take place Aug. 23-25, 2013.

Timothy Pecsenye



Last modified on:02/23/2014

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