GermanFest Picnic turns 40!

Dayton’s oldest German organization continues to preserve and promote German culture and traditions in Ohio’s Miami Valley.
By John Koerner

With the tapping of the ceremonial keg in the Spass Platz on Friday, August 11th, 2023, the Dayton Liederkranz Turner (DLT) will officially open its 40th GermanFest Picnic. The event now stands as a model for other cultural heritage festivals in the Miami Valley and typically ranks in various polls as one of the top three regional festivals overall.

The DLT was founded as the Dayton Liederkranz in 1890 as a men’s singing society in the tradition of German choral singing. Regular, high-profile concerts were a feature of the organization. In time, a ladies’ auxiliary was added, and events were expanded to include dinners, dances, and traditional German celebrations like Fasching and Oktoberfest. In the 1950s, the society merged with the Dayton Turnverein to become the Dayton Liederkranz Turner (DLT).

Unlike most other German clubs in the area, and throughout the Midwest, the DLT property consisted only of a building with parking. There were no grounds for traditional biergarten or other activities. With a paucity of suitable venues, a scarcity of available calendar dates, and increasing competition from other large-scale events, it was doubtful that the DLT would ever be able to develop and host a major community festival.

That all changed in 1983 when Carillon Park, a 65-acre park along the Great Miami River just south of downtown Dayton, asked the DLT to produce a German activity that could potentially grow and that would be open to the public. At that time, the park was owned and operated by the city of Dayton. It featured numerous historical attractions associated with the growth and development of Dayton. The park was underutilized, especially in August, and the DLT seized the opportunity by hosting a “German Picnic” on the second Sunday of August 1983.

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