Americans, Germans enjoy Fasching parade

by Tech. Sgt. Jocelyn Rich
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Under a crisp, blue sky with a chill in the air, confetti and Silly String litter the main street that winds though Ramstein-Miesenbach. Outbursts of “Ralau” are heard from the crowds lining the roadside, who are waiting in anticipation of the parade celebrating Fasching.

Fasching, also known as the fifth season, officially begins at 11:11 a.m. Nov. 11 every year. The actual celebrations of German carnival take place 40 days before Easter; they are the last big parties before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

In Germany, predominantly in the Rhineland area, the tradition dates back to medieval times.

In Ramstein, members of the local community invited U.S. service members and their families to join them in the celebration.

Tech. Sgt. Jacob Chavez, a C-40 flying crew chief from the 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, took advantage of the weather and event to bring his wife Melba and their sons Xavier, 11, and Caesar, 8,  to enjoy the festivities.

“This is the first year that we have been here for Fasching. We heard about this and wanted to check it out,” Sergeant Chavez said. “The atmosphere is awesome. We are having a blast.”

Over the years, the Ramstein Fasching parade tradition has grown to include people from outside of the German-American community.

“We have celebrated on this corner for the last 12 years,” said Dick Rastake, originally from Holland and working on Ramstein. “There are people in our group here from the U.S., the U.K., Holland and, of course, Germany. We are one big family enjoying this together.”

Suddenly, barely audible through cheers of the crowd, the faint beat of a bass drum accompanied by other instruments grew louder as the precession approached.

Down the street, blue uniforms appeared from behind the lead parade car. Highly polished instruments wielded by U.S. Air Forces in Europe Band members belted out marches, the Air Force song and other numbers, delighting the crowd.
The USAFE Band was lead through the Ramstein Fasching parade this year by Chief Master Sgt. William Castleman and drum major Staff Sgt. Jerome Minor.

“The atmosphere is happy and festive,” Sergeant Minor said. “We have had a great reception from the audience and a lot of interaction from the community.”
As the parade floats passed by, participants threw fistfuls of candy out to the crowd.

“We came out to dress up,” said Delaynie Treat, 9, daughter of Christine and Sam Treat, both retired Air Force members. “And for the candy and to see the funny costumes,” added Tori Wallace, 10, daughter of Chief Master Sgt. Steve Wallace, USAFE Judge Advocate Office.

And the atmosphere for the locals was just as enjoyable.

“This is my second time here,” said Karin Krück from Hütschenhausen. “The German-American interaction is great. It encourages a sense of community.”

The traditions of the American and local communities continue to strengthen and become ingrained in all those who have an opportunity to participate.

Wednesday marks the last day of Fasching and the last day of the fifth season.