Saxon Lutheran event showcases German heritage

Sunday, October 14, 2012
Blacksmiths Ian Willie, front, and Mark Petzoldt, left, make nails as visitors look on at the Saxon Lutheran Memorial's Fall Festival on Saturday in Frohna, Mo. The annual festival celebrates the heritage of the area's 19th century German immigrants. (ADAM VOGLER)

Leaves are starting to fall off the trees, and with the changing of the season comes the 32nd annual Saxon Lutheran Memorial Fall Festival in Frohna, Mo.

It's a festival unlike most in the surrounding area. In place of the corn dogs and ribbon fries are handmade bratwurst and German potato salad. In place of booths advertising local businesses, there are tents in place demonstrating the 1800s style of making apple butter and sorghum molasses.

In fact, most of the primary attractions had to do with the style of 1800s Germany.

Bill Bock, a board member of the Concordia Historical Institute for more than 30 years says that the festival is as much about learning about the heritage of the Lutheran Church as it is about having a good time.

"We are demonstrating a lot of old crafts so that people can learn what our ancestors went through to settle," Bock said, as he was dressed in period costume. "These are the types of conditions that they had to work under."

Lynda Lorenz, the residential curator of the festival, says there are people who plan family events around the festival.

"I know of three families who meet here for their family reunions," she said, "Events like this start that thinking of family lives and family foundations."

The population of Frohna is 254, and attendance for the event was just above 3,500, which was the highest in the 32-year history of the festival.

Lorenz said this is tremendous for the community.

"It's important. We're a small town and it exposes our community to a lot of people," she said.

There were attendees who camped out by a pond overnight, and there were buses that brought loads of patrons from across Missouri and Illinois. Attendees came from as far away as California and Germany.

Lorenz, who hosted the event on her family farm, came into contact with distant kin, whose lineage is connected to the farm land generations ago.

"I had a lengthy conversation with a man who was a descendant of the Bergts, who came over with the Saxon Immigration in 1839," she said. "They owned this land for 117 years."

Aside from the food, other tents showcased rail splitting, blacksmithing, hand-spun clay pots and broom making. There also was live music.

Josh Costello, a senior at Perryville High School, says that the festival is a lot of fun.

"I like seeing some of the stuff that they sell," he said. "You don't see a lot of these items being sold anywhere else. It brings a unique flavor."

Lorenz said that she looks forward to the festival growing bigger each year.

"We try to add more 1800s skills and crafts every year," she said. "A lot of people comment that we keep adding more, but we really haven't. They just stay longer and explore more."

Pertinent address:

Frohna, Missouri

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