Annual German Days a fun way to catch up with old friends

Sunday, August 3, 2008
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com Contestants in the "Mini Miss German Days" pageant stood before the judges Friday in Chaffee, Mo.

CHAFFEE, Mo. —For more than 20 years the German Days celebration in Chaffee has attracted people looking to catch up with old friends as well as to create new memories.

"Every year it's the same thing, but it's great," said Linda Lee, who for the past 20 years has been working at the lemon shake-up stand.

German Days has been getting people out for almost 30 years.

Beginning in 1980, the date was set to coincide with the diamond jubilee, or 75 years, of Chaffee as an incorporated city. This year it was held Friday and Saturday.

Bonnie Rister, who has lived in Chaffee her whole life, said the celebration began when the Chaffee Chamber of Commerce decided the city needed to celebrate itself. They asked the Country Ceebees, who knew many people in the area because of their use of CB radios, if they would organize the celebration. Supporters decided it should be called German Days, because many families in the area were of German descent.

Hal Rice, who has organized German Days in the past, said the city wanted to have its own celebration after seeing surrounding cities like Oran and Delta have theirs.

"It's a competition to see who can have the best one," Rice said.

Maxine and Dave Pepple enjoy attending German Days because they get to see old friends and customers. The Pepples owned Maxine's Drive-In from 1950 to 1988 in Chaffee. Maxine did the cooking and Dave did whatever he could, from cooking to mopping floors, when he got off from his daytime job. Now retired, when the couple comes to German Days they touch base with people they almost never see anymore.

"We talk about whatever pops up," Dave Pepple said.

Maxine Pepple, who had stopped eating a watermelon slice, chuckled and talked about the resemblance some children have to their parents, who use to work at the drive-in.

"You ask them if they are the parent and they say they're the child," Maxine Pepple said with a laugh.

David Craft comes to Chaffee to create memories with his son, Hayden. Craft has lived in St. Louis for the past five years, while Hayden's mother has lived in Chaffee. He visits them every weekend, including during the German Days celebration.

This year David entered Hay¬Ņden, who 2 years old, in the Mini Mr. German Days pageant. The pageant's theme was Western, so Hayden showed off his cowboy hat and boots, blue jeans and spurs.

"We thought it'd be fun," David said about entering the pageant. "He likes to be with all the kids."

Lee is a Chaffee native who spent her teenage years in the city. She said working at the shake-up stand during German Days gives her an opportunity to see the people she hardly sees anymore.

"Some people here see these people every day. They don't know what they have." said Lee, who lives two hours away in Fairview Heights, Ill.

"But when you don't see them every day, you know what you're missing."

adohogne@semissourian.com

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