By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Icons are very important. When we think of the iconic Dirndls and Lederhosen, what do we think of here in NB? Wurstfest, of course, and that will be Nov. 4-13.
Both items of clothing have been around in Europe for a long time, particularly Austria and the Bavarian part of Germany. Old- time German native dress, known as Tracht, was made of natural materials such as wool or linen and any embroidery or lace embellishments were handmade. There were traditional forms of clothing given to different regions, and now found mostly in museums.
The Dirndl which actually means “girl” started out in antiquity as clothing worn by female servants. This folk style dress was not worn by others until the mid-1800s. The dress became a sign of national pride of Germany, hence the icon. Certain colors, hat styles and embroideries on aprons also denoted different regions.
The Lederhosen (leather pants) for workmen came from the Alpine regions of Austria and Bavaria. They were worn by riders and hunters. These rugged Hosen were either short or long and made of goat or sheepskin. Prince Carl was a hunter, but somehow I can’t picture him in the sheepskin Lederhosen.
In 1870 Emperor Franz Joseph helped the folk dress along by making it popular among the aristocracy, but of course, made of silk. The material for Lederhosen changed from sheepskin to soft deerskin. Like the Dirndl, there was embroidery on the pants and suspenders, denoting different regions.
All kinds of Dirndls and Lederhosen can be seen at the Munich Oktoberfest and if you want to see a large gathering here in NB, go to Wurstfest. Of course, you will also see traditional blue jeans, incidentally invented by a Bavarian, Levi Strauss, when he emigrated to San Francisco during the Gold Rush.
Another icon of Wurstfest is the beer stein. Read my column of Oct. 20, 2009 found on the sophienburg.com website. A beer stein and mug has been produced every year since 1969.
An interesting side story to Wurstfest icons: Local collector of Wurstfest memorabilia, Dexter Gillespie, has a vast collection of items. He has playing cards with the Wurstfest logo and 300 beer mugs. He has all but the first mugs made from 1971-74. He also has a 1998 mug, the year of the flood, which has become rare because of its significance and availability. Gillespie has an original beer bucket- a paint can with handle- when beer was sold in that container at the beginning. My favorite of his collection is a 12 inch figurine of the late J.C. Reagan made in 1989, complete with Lederhosen, stein, accordion, sausage and pins on the hat. The cartoonish character was created by artist Douglas Lee Harris. Another of these figurines was made the following year of Ed. Grist, but Gillespie does not have one. Both men were good ambassadors for Wurstfest.
Let’s not forget the food items, the most prominent being sausage, potato soup, potato pancakes, pretzels, and all those delicious sweets like strudel and German cookies. Beer is the most sold drink on the grounds. Of course there are other “not so German” food items for sale.
To celebrate 50 years of Wurstfest, two Opas, Alton Rahe and Darvin Dietert, were commissioned to write the history of the organization. Both are 5th generation New Braunfelsers. Rahe wrote the history and Dietert collected the photos of which there are 160. The hardcover book of 140 pages chronicles the history of the organization from its beginning to its present site in Landa Park. Rahe speaks of the unpleasant year that prompted the organization to make improvements. Wurstfest is called the “Giant Fundraiser of the Community” and he tells of the many organizations that benefit from selling food and other items. Wurstfest contributes most of its profit to worthy groups in New Braunfels. The book will be for sale at various booths.
When you’re at Wurstfest, polka over to the Sophienburg booth where there are lots of German items for sale plus our Sophienburg New Braunfels Christmas ornaments.