By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit! Powerful words for an idea that is truly German. Loosely translated, it means “salute to German fellowship.” According to the late author Curt Schmidt, Gemütlichkeit is a concept that has grown out of thousands of years of German tradition based on history and folk wisdom. It is facilitated by good food, beer, drinks, singing, and laughter in the company of family and friends. “It is a state of the mind, the body and the emotions in perfect harmony.” This truly is what Wurstfest strives to attain.
The Prosit is done with mugs and steins in the air. The Wurstfest has produced a mug and/or stein for sale since 1969 when Herb Skoog was president of the organization. He has a collection of every Wurstfest stein. The ceramic mugs have no lids and the steins have pewter lids. Skoog’s sister, Doris Wallace, made the first mug and she made about 50 of them. The next year (’70) an undated mug was sold at Ken Armke’s Opa’s Haus, followed by another undated mug in 1971 when Wurstfest president Walter Zeisig sent the parking sticker to Germany and had some mugs made.
There are different theories of why steins have lids, but the most prevalent is that steins go back hundreds of years and Germans in particular like to sit outside in beer gardens and drink a liter or two. Lids were put on mugs to keep insects from flying in and carrying disease from one stein to another. Imagine that problem during the plague.
An interest in German imports prompted Ken Armke to produce dated mugs and he added steins in 1981. His OHI Collectibles has exclusive rights to the official Wurstfest mugs and steins. The NB Art League has designed the last few steins.
Herb Skoog has other steins in his collection, perhaps over 1,000. His collection began when he made trips to Germany, which he has done about 35 times. When he was general manager of KGNB in 1968, Lufthansa and the radio station sponsored a trip to Southern Europe and the collection began.
Wurstfest, which starts in 10 days (Oct. 30 through Nov. 8 ) has plenty of steins, mugs, and souvenirs for sale. Our Sophienburg’s Sophie’s Shop has a booth at the celebration and we have an impressive collection of German mementos.
This year’s souvenir is an affordable Christmas ornament made of solid pewter. On the front is a little German man holding a stein with “Wurstfest, New Braunfels” on it. On the back is “Sophienburg Museum and Archives, New Braunfels, Texas”. Years from now when you see this ornament hanging on your Christmas tree, you can remember that you were there.
As expected, Sophie’s booth features outstanding German Christmas ornaments. Big sellers at our booth are the Smoking Men. They are made close to the border between Germany and the Czech Republic,in a village well known for its wooden toy manufacturing. The Smoking Men are hand made wooden art forms representing all walks of life. Yes, they do smoke. Insert a small toothpick–sized wood into his mouth and the small smoker has smoke circling his head.
By far the most sought-after ornaments are the star-crowned Inge Glas ornaments. The company goes back to 1596 in Germany. Mouthblown and handpainted, the ornaments are heirloom quality. Nancy Classen who runs Sophie’s Shop is particularly excited about two ornaments that appear to have been sent here for Wurstfest; 5”ranz in his lederhosen and 5” Risi in her dirndl. Their faces are beautifully hand painted cherubs.
Next year the Wurstfest Association will celebrate its 50th birthday and Skoog says big things are planned. Armke says that the 2010 stein will reflect the anniversary. When Wurstfest says “big” they mean big. So polka on down to the Wursthalle and give a Prosit to Gamütlichkeit.