Can the American version of Bavaria be even more Bavarian than the German?

By Marlene Shyer
Photographs courtesy Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau

There is virtually no dirndl-free zone in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Even the Germans who come to the United States to visit the city have remarked that the American version is more Bavarian than Bavaria. Everywhere one turns looks like a picture postcard sent from Hansel and Gretel; there are chalets festooned with flowers, signs that read Willkommen and a pretzel vendor with his wares piled on a stick. Nearby, a horse and carriage waits for riders. And what other United States post office is decorated with painted Hummel figures?

These symbols of another time and place help to attract the nearly three million people who visit here every year to join the camera-ready town of approximately 5000 residents. They come and come back from as far away as China, and even include an unlikely busload of ladies who recently arrived for a long weekend from Fort Worth, Texas. A ninety-five-year-old gentleman from the nearby community of Saint Clair Shores remarked, “I come every year seven or eight times. We celebrate every family birthday here and have for years.”

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