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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ernte Fest draws large crowd to Freistatt

Monday, August 17, 2009

Several hundred people clammered onto the dance floor at Ernte Fest to participate in the "ducky dance" and the "Hokey Pokey" whenever the band played them. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Good weather and sizable crowds helped make the 36th annual Ernte Fest successful. Held Friday and Saturday in Freistatt, the German festival brought traditional food and fun to southwest Missouri and raised money for various charities supported by the Freistatt Lions Club.

Organizers tried new and old approaches to provide a satisfying experience for those attending the festival. An old touch added to the children's games was the return of a train fashioned from a disguised riding mower, giving rides across the grounds. Joe Crabtree, Freistatt Lions secretary, said the train was dusted off from storage and provided another happy experience for small children attending.

Many come to the Ernte Fest for the traditional German meal. According to Deborah Schoen, who sold meal tickets at the door, a total of 1,370 meals were sold over two nights.

The 751 meals sold on Friday was significantly more than is typically sold on the first night, Schoen said. It was also unusual to have fewer meals, 619, sold on the second night. Schoen said reports of heavy rain in the Miller area may have discouraged some out-of-town visitors. Freistatt remained dry throughout the festival.

The kitchen crew remained busy well into the evening packing meals for the snack shack, Schoen added.

Freistatt Marshal Kevin Davis reported the late night crowd on Saturday was the largest of the festival. At one point on Saturday, Davis calculated there were 1,000 cars in the Ernte Fest grounds parking lot.

Davis had 16 commissioned police officers working for him to maintain order in addition to six security guards from Mickey Beagle's firm. Security people were dressed in white shirts with black lettering to stand out in the crowd. Again this year, Beagle's strategy of having security people overlooking the crowd from elevated stands was used.

The festival was peaceful, Davis said.

"When you get that many people in one place with no more problems than we had, it's amazing," said Davis. "We had a lot of families and a lot of designated drivers."

Within a few miles of the festival, law enforcement had set up driving while intoxicated checkpoints. A sign was posted at the exit of the festival's beer garden alerting those leaving to the possibility of being stopped while leaving the area. Davis hoped people thought twice about trying to drive after having too much to drink.

"You can prevent more people from driving drunk than you can catch," Davis said.

As a new offering to visitors at the festival this year, the Freistatt Lions allowed a section of their parking lot to be used for campers for the first time. Schoen reported those with campers came from a significant distance to attend the Ernte Fest.

The festival hosted all new musical performers this year. The Sauerkauts, a German band from San Antonio, Texas, who have played at the Epcot Center in Florida, kept the dance floor busy in front of the original bandstand. Combining the "ducky dance" and the "Hokey Pokey" proved to be an animated outing for several hundred people who packed the dance floor each time the band struck up the popular numbers.

The rock band SideFX also maintained a solid crowd around the stage in the far corner of the grounds. Covering songs by Heart and some southern rock favorites, the band provided dancing and music for a younger part of the crowd.

Kevin Cloud, Ernte Fest chairman for the Freistatt Lions, said he was pleased with how the festival ran. Crabtree said that with the experience of past years and the assistance of other Lions clubs, such as Monett and Pierce City groups running some of the games, the festival has a rhythm of its own and once again ran smoothly.

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