OGDEN — Organizers say it’s got an intimate, family-friendly feel to it — sort of like one big family reunion.
That is, if your family happens to geek out on listening to oom-pah-pah music. And eating wiener schnitzel. And wearing leather britches.
Oh, plus you never know when folks will spontaneously break out into the hilarious “chicken dance.”
“A lot of people come to me and say this is kind of a family reunion for them,” said Duncan Olsen, general manager of the Golden Spike Event Center. “They see people they don’t see much during the year and share some German food and fun. It’s got that homestyle feel.”
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The event takes place from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 19-20, in the event center’s Exhibit Hall at 1000 N. 1200 West. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for students and $5 for children. A family pass — good for up to two adults and four children or students — is $25. More information is available at 801-399-8277.
Olsen says one of the highlights each year is the musical groups that keep the party going with songs from that part of the world. Performing this year will be The Gruber Family Band, Jaegerswald Musikanten, Park City Polka Players, and the popular Salzburger Echo.
The event also will feature authentic German food by Siegfried’s Sausages, Vosen’s Bread Paradise and Nutcracker Sweets.
Olsen says they’ve made a bit of a change to the crafts portion of GermanFest, so there won’t be as many booths.
“We’re trying to keep an authentic German feel, so we didn’t let as many craft booths and vendor booths in as in the past,” he said. “We’re trying to get that handmade, German feel to the items.”
The Weber State University Institute Alumni Folk Dancers also will entertain, and lessons will be offered on everything from waltzes and polkas to the crowd-favorite chicken dance.
“A lot of people don’t get an opportunity to experience something like this,” Olsen said. “But while they won’t be able to travel to Germany, they can come and experience the food, the music, the arts and — for those who do drink — craft beers, all of which offer the feel of a real German festival.”
The Sneddon HOF GermanFest has been operating, under one name or another, since 1986. Originally, it was planned as a cultural exchange event intended to revive a sister city relationship between Ogden and Hof, Germany, that had existed since 1955.
Former Ogden mayor and then-city-council member Scott Sneddon was the driving force behind organizing what at that time was called the Ogden Hof Winter Carnival. Today, the event is named in honor of Sneddon, who died of cancer in 2005.
His widow, Katherine Heninger, has kept the Sneddon name alive with a scholarship in his memory. At the time of Sneddon’s death, Heninger asked that in lieu of flowers, people donate to a memorial scholarship in his name. That fund has since earned enough to become a perpetuating endowment, which each year offers between three and five partial scholarships to third- and fourth-year students in the respiratory therapy department at Weber State University.
Heninger and others continue to man a booth at the festival each year, with all proceeds from items sold going to the scholarship fund. Over the years, the booth has sold everything from Hof memorabilia to hand-carved items, felt chicken hats to baskets to be raffled off.
Olsen hopes those who’ve never tried the Sneddon HOF GermanFest will give it a chance.
“It’s an event and an experience that you don’t get every day,” he said. “I feel like if people would open up and try something new, they would be hooked.”
Each year, local schools plan field trips to the first day of the festival, according to Heninger. She believes it’s important for children to be exposed to cultural events like the Sneddon HOF GermanFest.
“I think when young people are exposed to different cultural things at an early age, they’re much more apt to be open-minded about different people and places,” Heninger said. “They learn we’re all much more alike than we sometimes think.”