Oktoberfest in Helen, Georgia
As I circle the calendar and prepare for a trip to Helen, Georgia in the fall to see my daughter, I opened and read one of my previous novels, The Eye of the Storm, a story, based on actual events, about German immigration to Texas in the mid-1800’s. The book follows a family from Rastede, Germany to Texas, and then inland to Columbus and Frelsburg in 1845.
The most substantial immigration of Germans started in 1831 with such families as the Struss, Kleberg, Fehrencamp, Brune, Stolje, Lilie, Meyer, and many others who settled in many places, including Kraewinkel or later named Frelsburg after my uncle, Captain William Frels.
Back then, the early German festivals held were for singing societies such as Saengerfest and Volkfest. These were found as early as 1853 in Texas.
While there was an anti-Japanese feeling throughout America in the 1940’s, there was also an anti-German feeling carried over after the Great War. In 1919, Governor William Hobby vetoed appropriations for the German Department at the University of Texas where my Aunt Johanna Walling was a professor.
It wasn’t until I was attending school in the 1960’s did German-Texans begin to boldly celebrate our heritage again with the beginning of annual Oktoberfests. Which, by the way, got me thinking about how authentic the small German town of Helen, Georgia is at this time of the year.
Helen is a mountain town in northeast Georgia. It’s known for its vineyards and German style buildings. And, the various German beers sold throughout the small community, added to the architecture, will make one feel like they are in Oldenburg, Germany!
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