Landstuhl’s city festival mixes music, food, tradition

by Rick Scavetta
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

With September’s arrival in Germany comes the season of local festivals – a tradition Landstuhl has celebrated for 24 years at the city’s annual Stadtfest.

At 7 p.m. today, the festival begins when Landstuhl business and political leaders tap the ceremonial beer barrel ― launching an evening of food, drinks and music along Kaiserstrasse, Landstuhl’s main thoroughfare.

Over three days, 24 different live bands perform on three stages. The event is free, although a €2 donation gets you a bracelet and helps cover costs.

“It’s that traditional time of the year, autumn is about to start. People come together to share a nice weekend, at the end of summer, before it gets cool and dark again,” said Sascha Rickart, a Landstuhl attorney who serves on the festival board.

When Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Tychnowitz thinks back on the two times he went to Landstuhl’s city festival, the first thing he recalls is the music.

“There’s three stages with different bands, a mixture of rock bands to slower tunes and oldies,” Tychnowitz said. “It’s fun for the kids too. And the parents can enjoy some good food and a few drinks.”

Tychnowitz, who serves with the Miesau-based 212th Combat Support Hospital and lives in Landstuhl with his wife and two children, said Stadtfest offers a glimpse of German traditions – a taste of what’s often seen at larger festivals like Oktoberfest in Munich.

“This festival gives you an idea of how the Germans celebrate,” Tychnowitz said. “You learn a little about the culture and see how they do things. It’s different than the fairs that we have in the states.”

The fun continues Saturday, with more bands, food and beer. On Sunday, the event starts at 11 a.m., with an American-style brunch being served at the north end of Kaiserstrasse, near Hotel Christine.

Food vendors offer everything from traditional grilled bratwurst to saumagen ― a slice of sausage typical in the local region. Roasted ham and fresh North Sea fish will also be offered. Local Italian restaurants will cook pizza and flammkuchen ― a thin-crusted pie served with a cream sauce, ham and onions that has its origins in the nearby Alsace region of France. Sweets are also an attraction, from chocolate-filled crepes to irresistible mini-donuts.

Beer will be available from several local breweries, including beer from Homburg, Pirmasens and Bitburg.

Also, two local wineries will offer wine from the region that is often mixed with sparkling water and served as a spritzer in a traditional half-liter Pfälzer Schoppenglas. Ask for a “weinschorle.”

City shops will be open during the festival on Saturday and also on Sunday – a unique change for Germans as shopping is only allowed on four Sundays per year. Over the weekend, some of Landstuhl streets will be blocked to traffic during the festival. Visitors should consider parking in a lot outside the city center ― some lots are along Bahnhofstrasse, near the main train station ― and walking into the event.

During the fest, some streets in Landstuhl center will be closed to motorists, who should follow posted detour signs.

Making their Stadtfest debut is the Landau-based “Die Dicken Kinder,” a well-known band that plays everything from pop and funk to soul and reggae. Landstuhl has a longstanding jazz tradition and the opening act is the Wings of Dixie, a U.S. Air Forces in Europe Dixieland jazz band, Rickart said. With thousands of Americans living in the Landstuhl area, organizers hope they feel welcome.

“The Air Force band is already a traditional part of our Stadtfest,” Rickart said. “We want to show that the U.S. citizens and the U.S. military community mean a lot to us.”