NEW BREMEN — The chance for a last blast of summer vacation before school begins will happen Aug. 17–20, when Bremenfest celebrates community life for regional families.
Kindergarten through high school classes open the following Wednesday, Aug. 23.
Highlights of this 43rd annual Bremenfest include team and individual sports, a car and motorcycle show, live music for dancing or concert listening, a fishing derby and a parade through downtown. Sunny weather in the high 70s is forecast for the weekend and should bring plenty of late-summer fans, which will please festival officials because the number attending this year may well determine whether there’s a 44th celebration and beyond.
Allan Webster, Bremenfest president and third-year committee member, is positive about the future of the festival.
“Bremenfest isn’t going anywhere,” he said. “Sponsorship money has picked up and volunteers have filled our booth staffing, so we’ll continue to put it on.”
Prefestival events will kick off, Sunday, Aug. 13, with competition pageants for the titles of Little Miss Bremenfest and Bremenfest Queen. The Little Miss contest among first-graders starts at 1:30 p.m., followed at 6 p.m. by the queen competition. Tickets are $5 at the door for either event in New Bremen High School.
Closer in time to the activities is the annual family movie night, Thursday, Aug. 17, at 8 p.m., when the Disney-animated “Moana” will be shown in Crown Pavilion on West Plum Street.
Friday, Aug. 18, events open at 3 p.m. when PA the DJ, also known as John Collins, rocks the Crown Pavilion. Amusement rides open at 4 p.m., and food and refreshment tents begin serving at 5 p.m. Opening ceremonies at 6:30 p.m. officially launch the festivities as the Bremenfest Queen and Little Miss Bremenfest are announced and crowned. A mile-long fun run starts at 7:30 p.m., and a serious 5-kilometer run starts at 8 p.m. Fortunately for runners, therapists from the New Bremen Massage Clinic will give chair massages following the 5K race.
The almost-hometown band, Saw Creek, whose four members hail from nearby Chickasaw and Maria Stein, will play its country Top 40 arrangements Friday night in Crown Pavilion from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., closing out the food and beer tents by 12:45 a.m.
“We have a great lineup of bands and music for a small-town festival,” Webster said. “We’ve stayed pretty local (for talent), so we have a good handle on scheduling to please people.”
The start of the Saturday, Aug. 19, schedule reads as though spicy soup is served up for breakfast! Entries for the America Legion chili cook-off must be prepared onsite, starting at 8 a.m., for later tasting and contest judging. As the beverage stands open, the day’s events begin to develop with classic cars and motorcycles arriving for a show starting at 10 a.m. in the parking lot down the hill on Monroe Street behind the American Bicycle Museum and 17 West restaurant. At the same time, Jaycee Park heats up with a mud volleyball tournament and a kids’ craft corner in the shelter house.
Anglers of various ages will line the shores of the historic Miami-Erie Canal for a fishing derby from 10:30 a.m. to noon; then amusement rides for fun-seekers will open while the more serious crowd awaits the announcement of chili cook-off winners at Crown Pavilion.
A punt-pass-kick competition starts at 2 p.m. in Jaycee Park, and a cornhole tournament gets underway at 3 p.m. as the live music of Bubs & Munch, an acoustic cover duo, plays at the pavilion until 8 p.m. The evening continues with games of chance; then the entertainment comes alive again with Brother Believe Me dance music in the pavilion from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Sunday, Aug. 20, events open near lunchtime when Paul’s barbecue chicken dinners are served for $7 beginning at 11 a.m. in the pavilion. Some advice for drivers: There’s no sense in getting unnerved Sunday around noon when you’re detoured through town to make room for the annual promenade on Washington Street. The parade starts at 1 p.m., but people start placing lawn chairs a day early on both sides of the street to reserve viewing space on the route.
Two o’clock is a busy start time for a dodgeball tournament in Jaycee Park, amusement rides opening and Mark Cantwil performing till 5 p.m. at Crown Pavilion. His country-rock music was featured in July on the Saloon stage of the Country Concert in Newport.
An extended slow-down of festivities starts at 4 p.m. with big wheel races for youngsters at Crown Pavilion, followed there with an auction of a custom Miller Light neon sign at 5 p.m. and the country music of Haywired from 6 to 10 p.m.
Logan O’Neill, chief executive officer of the Southwest Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce, said, “Bremenfest does a lot for different groups in the community (of New Bremen and New Knoxville). Community people give back through their financial support, and quite a few organizations get funds from Bremenfest. And besides, these people like to have fun.”
But despite this upbeat attitude, there is talk in the town that Bremenfest may be on a path to oblivion. At a village council meeting in June, festival officials cited the lack of volunteers and the difficulty in raising money as future threats to the three days of events. Andrew Roiberg, festival treasurer, said amusement ride companies, for instance, tend to shy away from small festivals because insurance costs keep rising and the ride owners can’t make much money.
Fortunately, it’s “free” to hire volunteers to work several months in advance to make festival arrangements, then enlist a short-term corps of workers to run individual booths and events. Volunteers, however, aren’t exactly plentiful. The Bremenfest committee dwindled from 11 members last year to nine for this 43rd anniversary, though volunteers have come forward to staff the festival operations.
John Gilberg, one of the founders of Bremenfest in 1974, said it’s ironic that the viability of the celebration has faded.
“We really didn’t plan on it to be a money-making picnic,” Gilberg said, “but we ended up making about $7,000 the first year. Now I hear they only made $9,000, 42 years later.”
In the first few years of the festival, it earned enough money to buy heart monitors for the emergency squad, Little League baseball shirts, a tractor mower and to help buy land for the Lions Club and Bremenfest parks.
Webster explained that the $9,000 figure was the amount given to community groups requesting funds for their respective projects. Most of the proceeds from festivalgoers pay for the next year’s community celebration. He added that the number of committee members has grown to 13 since the June council, so planning for the 44th Bremenfest anniversary will start soon to improve sponsorship and profits.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.