Minnesota's Oldest German Festival of over 155 years and over 18 years of car show fun.
For over 155 years, residents, former residents and visitors have been gathering to celebrate Stiftungsfest, Minnesota's oldest celebration. While the event has changed greatly over the years, the theme is the same, getting friends and neighbors together to sing, dance, eat, drink and have a wonderful time.
The Pioneer Maennerchor, a men's singing group, is credited for beginning the celebration in 1861. Karl Bachmann, who moved to the area from New Jersey earlier that year, wanted to form a singing group similar to one he belonged to back East. He gathered a group of local men who enjoyed singing, and the Maennerchor was born. Besides Bachmann, early members included Henry Bachmann, Adolph Hostermann, A. Schrimpf, H. Verufen and Henry Hostermann., They sang a variety of songs, mostly in German.
The group held an annual get together for members, their families and the community members. In December of 1866, the group held a threeday celebration from Friday through Monday in a rented hall in Young America. Entertainment included a fivemember band. From this first celebration, Stiftungsfest evolved.
The singers met in local homes until 1868 when Singers Hall was built in Young 'America on a piece of land near the present water tower. The Maennerchor and other local men helped construct the hall.
In 1911, Stiftungsfest celebrated its 50th anniversary with a huge crowd and many activities in the city park. Trainloads of visitors came to Young America including the Second Regiment Band and the New Ulm Maennerchor Later in the day, the band marched through the city. The day ended with a grand ball in the evening.
By 1938, the Pioneer Maennerchor membership was down to six members. On July 7, 1938, the group voted to 'disband the Maennerchor and turn the Stiftungsfest celebration and Singers Hall over to the village of Young America. The village in turn gave the property and celebration to the fire department which is still actively involved in Stiftungsfest today.
From 1938 through 1955, Stiftungsfest was held as a oneday celebration in Young America. Even during the years of World War II, the annual celebration continued.
In 1956, Young America firemen decided to make a few changes. The celebration was expanded to three days and a parade was planned. Several local people dressed in oldfashioned costumes and traveled to other local celebrations to hand out information advertising the upcoming Stiftungsfest celebration. The threeday event, complete. with parade, drew 25,000 people for the weekend.
Those living in the city in 1956 may recall that the Schell's Hobo Band, who' slept overnight in Bouncer's Bar (owned by Alfred Stenzel), marched up and down main street doing revelry at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning. It was in 1956 that the barbecued beef became a part of the Stiftungsfest tradition.
It was also around this time the special seasoned hamburgers made their debut under the guiding hand of Bernard "Bernie" Pedersen and J.J. Thomas in the Young America Meat Market. Both foods are still served today.
When the cities of Norwood and Young America voted to merge in 1996, the city's fire departments joined together to sponsor Stiftungsfest. Stiftungsfest Incorporated, a nonprofit organization, was formed. The organization is comprised of 22 members who formed committees and met throughout the year making plans for Stiftungsfest. More than 30 people are members of the various committees which include music, foods, advertising, arts and crafts, housing, softball, cleanup and several others. Many local organizations now participate in various aspects of Stiftungsfest, too. Today, it takes more than 300 volunteers to plan and carry out the three day festival.
This is were the car show comes in. 2001 was the first Stiftungsfest car show ran by the ____ brothers. 2013 being the last year they would put the show on. In 2014 to 2018 the Nelson family ran the show. They also moved the show to the current location. In 2019 Lisa Valiant took over. She has been around classic cars her whole life. Every year there are many other volunteers that help make this festival successful. The average car count is approximately 90 and growing every year.
Remember that the entire Stiftungsfest festival is NYA Fire Departments only fundraiser and all proceeds go to help buy and maintain equipment and supplies to help better serve there community.