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New Ulm, Minnesota German American heritage and culture
In southern Minnesota where the Minnesota River and the Cottonwood River meet is the City of New Ulm which is in Brown County. It was founded in 1854 by German immigrants, Christian Ludwig Meyer, Alois Palmer, Athanasius Henle, and Franz Massopous who named it after the City of Ulm in Germany. Today Ulm, Germany and New Ulm are sister cities. Going along with its German heritage, New Ulm is a brewing center and home of the August Schell Brewing company. New Ulm has also been noted for a center for Polka music and has had well known musicians, such as Whoopee John Wilfahrt and others. Georges Ballroom and KNUJ radio, and street dances also lent to the Polka interest. For anyone wanting a taste of German American culture, the city has many festivals throughout the year, as well as museums, golf courses and other activities.
History, museums and local lore
· the U.S. Dakota War of 1862 One Hundred and fifty years ago the U.S. Dakota War of 1862, a major event for this city, Little Crow and his Dakota Sioux warriors burned the city. This was a major event for the history of New Ulm and this year, 2012, is the anniversary of the event. There are three floors of exhibits and one of the largest archives in the state, including 5,500 family files.
· Brown county Historical Society Museum. The Historical society and museum are housed in what was once the Post Office building. It was built in 1910 in a German Renaissance style and is now on the National Register of Historical Places.
· German-Bohemian Immigrant Monument. The first German-Bohemians came to New Ulm in 1856. Many of them settled in an area called “Goosetown” because they kept flocks of geese. This was near the river and the southern boundaries of the town. The monument was made in 1991 to honor the Bohemian immigrants. Today Bohemia is known as the Czech Republic. The monument is 7 and ½ foot granite monument with a statue of a family. It is located in German Park.
· Tornado In 1881. The city was hit by a tornado which killed 6 people and injured 53.
· German POW’s During World War II prisoners were housed in a camp southeast of the city, where Flandreau State Park is now. In 1944 a family took a prisoner from the camp, housed him and took him to church. According to Wikipedia the family was fined $3000.
· Minnesota Music Hall of Fame. This is to honor those who have contributed to the Music of Minnesota in various genres. Whoopee John, Judy Garland, Bob Dylan, Prince, Fezz Fritsche are a few. The admission of $5 includes an audio tour.
The New Ulm Visitor’s guide says that “New Ulm has been known as a ‘City of Festivals.’ “
· Schell’s Bock fest is on the grounds of Schell’s Brewery, with a bonfire and live music.
· Fasching is a German Mardi Gras. The visitor’s guide describes it as “an old carnival tradition” from the European Alps. Strips of cloth are strung across New Ulm’s streets and masked characters in costumes invite people to the party with music, food and dancing. Also a costume contest is held in the evening. Held in February.
· St. Patrick’s Day Parade. New Ulm boasts the oldest continuous Irish parade in Minnesota. Considering the city of St. Paul is the capital of Minnesota that is quite a boast.
· July brings the Bavarian Blast held at the Brown County fairgrounds. It is a weekend of German heritage and Culture.
· Brown county Free Fair. It is free and considers itself to be like an old fashioned county fair. With tractor pulls, demolition derby, talent contests and other activities.
· What would a German community be without an Oktoberfest? This one is modeled after the one in Munich, Germany. German music, Concord singers, German food and horse drawn trolley rides.
· New Ulm Christmas Many Christmas traditions, such as the Christmas tree. The celebration includes a Parade of Lights, St. Nikolaus Day with St. Nick in traditional costumes along with Krumpus his sidekick.
It is hard to find places in today’s world that maintain something of their ethnic heritage. New Ulm seems to be a place that is trying to maintain that interest and t is a good place to experience some of the German American culture or to just have a good time.
Sources for this article are: Wikipedia and The New Ulm Visitor’s Guide.
Copyright 2012 Don Hoglund
© 2012 Don A. Hoglund