TOWER BARRACKS, Germany – Resuming a decades-long tradition after a three-year hiatus, U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria hosted the 62nd German-American Volksfest Aug. 4 through 6 at Camp Algier in the Grafenwoehr military community.
The festival served as a celebration of the partnership between the U.S. military community in Europe and its host community partners in Bavaria, as both German and American festgoers enjoyed one another's food, drink, and company.
Buses brought crowds of festgoers who milled outside the fest entrance before the official kickoff Aug. 4. Mounted German police provided both protection and a display of horsemanship as high-ranking U.S. military leaders and the mayor of Stadt Grafenwöhr got in place for the ribbon cutting. After an invocation by German and American chaplains, Grafenwöhr Bürgermeister Edgar Knobloch; Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; and Brig. Gen. Steven P. Carpenter, commanding general of the 7th Army Training Command, cut the ribbon with oversized scissors.
From there, military leaders, festival organizers, and community leaders paraded behind a traditional Bavarian band and an honor guard organized by the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The parade marched through the fest area, past fest rides, past food stands of chocolate-dipped fruits and traditional Bavarian cookie hearts, through the scent of candied almonds and roasted fish and beneath a sunny and clouded sky. They arrived at the German fest tent for the tapping of the keg, which opens many festivals throughout Germany.
Col. Kevin A. Poole, U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria commander, took the stage.
"After three years of pandemic, we're finally here," said Poole. "The party's rocking. I'm so happy to see you all."
Poole alternated between English and German as he addressed the linguistically mixed crowd.
"Without your support and engagement," he told the Germans, "It would not be possible."
Poole was joined on stage by Carpenter, the current commander of 7ATC, and by Cavoli and Lt. Gen. Antonio Aguto, both of whom served as the commanding general of the 7th ATC.
"What a pleasure it is to be back here in Bavaria, and more, to be back here in the Oberpfalz," Cavoli told the festgoers, referring to the Upper Palatinate district of Bavaria. "You can tell that I am sincere in that, but you can tell that I am not alone. When a commander leaves this post, he returns and returns and returns."
Cavoli was referring to his and Aguto's presence at the festival.
"And I predict in three years, General Carpenter will come back," Cavoli added.
Cavoli then drew attention to the fest opening coinciding with Knobloch's birthday, and the band struck up "Happy Birthday to You."
Knobloch thanked Cavoli for his continuing friendship. Knobloch then told audiences that the day was a good one for German-American cooperation, especially for the cities of Grafenwöhr and Vilseck. And he cited the groundbreaking for the forthcoming Operational Readiness Training Center, which took place earlier in the day at Camp Algier, as an example of how the military community continues to flourish.
Carpenter had the honor of swinging the mallet and knocking the tap into the keg. The group on stage took the beer from this first ceremonial keg. They held aloft their mugs, which they clinked, and they yelled a hearty "Prost" to the gathered audience.
Afterward Cavoli toured the fest grounds, not only enjoying the carnival atmosphere but meeting with the Soldiers staffing the military vehicle static displays.
The festival continued for three days, bringing the German community on post so Germans and Americans could mingle and enjoy one another's company as they listened to DJs spin hits, the U.S. Army Europe and Africa Band & Chorus and the 4th Infantry Division Brass Quintet knock out both standards and more recent popular songs, and Ernest Ray Everett sing country ballads. Saturday, Aug. 5, alternative rock band Hoobastank of Agoura Hills, California, played their repertoire as the audience sang along to their hits such as "The Reason."
As a reminder of the time they enjoyed and friendships shared, many festgoers purchased commemorative beer steins emblazoned with the festival logo.