How Dayton History coopted the GermanFest Picnic
How else do you describe the actions of the President & CEO of a venue that has been home to a festival for more than 30 years.
With no phone call, no advance notice, no hint as to the park’s intent to host its own 10 day event on the dates the GermanFest has used every year (the second weekend of August) for 33 years, the Dayton Liederkranz Turner’s picnic chair literally received a “Dear John” letter.
Full disclosure: My mother, Wanda Wiedman, started the German Picnic 34 years ago. It has grown into one of the area’s premier festivals and is typically thought of as the kick off to festival season. With the exception of a couple of years at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, it has always been at Carillon Park. The first year there were 400 people, recent years have probably been closer to 50–75,000. The crowds are always huge when the Clydesdales are in town.
I cannot begin to count how many schnitzel I fried, volunteers I recruited, beers I drank, tables I broke down (not because of the beer, but as part of the clean up), etc over the years, but it doesn’t begin to compare to all the work done by people like my mother, John, the Sagassers, Trudy and countless others. Many of the volunteers have worked every one of the 33 years and are now in their 80s or beyond.
And Carillon Park benefited nicely from the arrangement with electrical upgrades, as well as a lot of foot traffic and exposure. For as long as I can remember, the German Picnic attendance numbers were included in the park’s attendance numbers and helped them receive many grants over the years.
The festival is going to be bigger and better than what they ever did here before,” Kress said. “It is no longer financially beneficial to us to continue to partner with them.”
The park has changed with recent growth under Brady’s tenure, but the picnic has adapted. But what changed more than anything were the rules of the game. One of the first things that changed was a park fee — $5000 back in the day, which I know because my husband and I covered it for a few years as a gift to the Club. When they tried to jack it to $10,000 the picnic moved to the fairgrounds for a few years. It wasn’t the same to be honest. Then Dayton History was trying to get the beer & food revenue. I’ve been out of the loop for the past 10 years, so I don’t have details of the current extortion rates, but I have a hard time believing that the arrangement was not financially beneficial to Dayton History.
Read Brady’s quote above and tell me that doesn’t smack of ego, power and greed. We’re not talking about rival businesses here, we’re talking about non profits putting on a community festival. This isn’t an idea Brady Kress or the Dayton History Board of Trustees just came up with. You don’t come up with a 10 day festival within 24 hours of notifying your “partner” that you no longer find it financially beneficial to work with them.
So here we are…the Club is now scrambling to find a venue with 8 months to go; Dayton History will do its own thing; and a lot of people in the community are upset with not just the decision but the way it was handled.
What can you do? You can start by sending Brady Kress an email and letting him know how you feel about the picnic and the handling of this matter.
You can also support the Dayton Liederkranz Turner by attending their events in St Anne’s Hill Historic District. There is a Schnitzel Dinner on Saturday January 14th — and trust me, the one thing you will NOT get at the ten day festival replacing the GermanFest is Trudy’s Schnitzel.
I won’t presume to tell you not to attend the Dayton History event in August, but assuming the GermanFest Picnic can find a suitable venue, I hope you will indeed support it. For 33 years it’s been the 2nd weekend in August. Who knows where or when it will be this year, if at all.
Editors Note: tg is Theresa Gasper, longtime community volunteer