Walking up the driveway of the Cannstatter Volksfest Verein my senses were triggered. I could hear the steady bass notes of a polka, smell the roasting biernuts in the distance, and feel the excitement of everyone around. There was no mistaking that it was Labor Day weekend and the annual Volksfest was underway at 9130 Academy Road.
Over the years, I have attended this event many times, so it was no surprise to me to see the vendors at the front of the fairgrounds, the beer lines packed, a fest tent filled to capacity, and carnival rides in the backround. Yet something was different this time around. I was there with my wife and my kids. Brianne and I could barely hang on to the little ones as they were trying to desperately run to the stage where their Opa was playing music with our beloved Heimatklange. We somehow managed to hold on to them, but the challenges of making it to the, “U.G.H. Tables,” were not over.
It seemed like every direction I turned, I would see another friend who I haven’t seen in far too long. Stopping to say hello and embrace everyone ended up taking a while, but those moments are really what this time of year is all about.
After finally making it to our seats, we were quickly confronted by the next order of business. Food and drinks. We decided that Joey and I would man the tables while the girls jumped into the concession line. While we were waiting at the table for our refreshments, I made some small talk with the people seated near us and before long, the girls were back with hotdogs and French fries for the kids, and Weisswurst and potato salad for us. No complaints were heard.
Now that our hunger was dealt with, we could make our way to the dance floor. The kid’s instincts immediately took over and they ran straight to the stage to start jumping around and screaming “OPA!!!.” We all danced along to the music for a few songs until the band stopped to take their first break.
The break in the action allowed us to walk around taking in all of the sights around us. Popping in and out of the vendor tents is always fun. Doing a little window shopping, and some actual shopping, is part of the experience. We continued our exploring around the premises when we ran into my dad who was doing his usual mingling in between band sets. He was talking with someone who I didn’t know, when before I knew it, he was telling the friendly strangers that this is his son and grandson (The girls were still doing some shopping). I think the three of us, Dad, Joey, and I, all had the samelook of pride on our faces to be who we were to one another because out of nowhere, one of the strangers asked for my phone to take a quick picture. And there it was. Three generations of Galgon’s captured in a very special moment in time. Then I looked around and was filled with a great sense of communal pride. This same scene was taking place all over. Children and parents and grandparents and great grandparents all over. Generations of families were what filled the fairgrounds. Families that have been coming to this event for years. You could tell that they had their usual spots and routines. Everyone knew right where they wanted to be, who they wanted to and expected to see, and what attractions they HAD to take part in before leaving.
This event is truly a staple of the Greater Philadelphia community. It’s a place and time where generations can blend seamlessly. In this day and age, it is quite hard to find activities and events that can entertain four generations of any family. The German-American community has always done a great job of this. Year in and year out (we’ll ignore 2020), the fall season from start to finish is filled with these events brought on by the local clubs. The importance of these events can easily be overlooked. Yes, they enforce and strengthen our understanding of our culture and heritage, but more importantly to me at least, is the strengthening and reinforcement of family and community they bring. Over the past year and a half, we have been missing these reinforcements, and I for one couldn’t be happier that they are happening again, bringing us all back together.