When I think of German festivities, what automatically pops into my mind is Oktoberfest. However, this Saturday in New Ulm, a town that was settled by Germans, another celebration takes place—the German Fasching festival, which, each year, falls in conjunction with Bock Fest, an event put on by August Schell Brewing Co.
The Fasching festival is a pre-Lenten celebration that has been put on since 1979, a sort of German Mardi Gras, if you will. Each year, in German peasant tradition, strips of cloth are strung across downtown while Narren (masked characters in costume) parade the streets, inviting others to attend the party filled with food, drinks, music, and dancing.
Photo courtesy of August Schell Brewing Co.
You’ll find many of the same attendees at Bock Fest, now in its 27th year, whose crowd reaches close to 6,000. While listening to polka music from The Bock Fest Boys (whose member, Smiley Wilcheck, performed at the very first Bock Fest), attendees will consume brats made with Schell’s beer and served with sauerkraut, while, of course, also drinking Bock beer. Bock, Schell’s winter craft brew, is an amber beer with a robust malt character and is only sold between January and February. Festivalgoers are also invited to take part in the Great Bock Hunt, in which Schell’s president sends the “hunters” on a clued chase through Flandrau State Park, searching for wooden cutout of bock heads. Legend has it, if all Seven Blocks of Winter are found an early spring will come. All festivities take place outdoors, so be sure to dress accordingly.
If you can’t make it down this weekend, I would suggest still planning a time to tour the states oldest, and largest, brewery. The maker of 18 types of beers—including Schell’s and Grain Belt—here you’ll lean about the brewery, tour the old copper kettle area of the plant, hear the history of the founding family and taste varieties of the brews in addition to a 1919 Root Beer sampling. Tours are offered Friday to Sunday through May and then daily Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Fasching: noon-10 p.m.
Turner Hall, 101 South State, New Ulm
Cost: $5 in advance, $7 at the door
Bock Fest: 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
1860 Schell Road, New Ulm