It is a family run company, and they are a big supporter of the Bavarian Blast festival we are attending. Te photo here is They were running tours of the brewery every half hour all weekend long. We went for one, found it interesting.
The festival is held on Brown County fairgrounds. We were camped just outside the gates with about 20 other units. Liz and I had such a great time at the music festival. Because she is our music specialist, I will have her tell you about it:
Bruce asked me to sit in as the music commentator for the New Ulm Bavarian Blast. I will try to do it justice. J Liz
We could hear the music wafting across to our trailer before we even approached the ticket booth at the Brown County Fairgrounds in New Ulm. The first band up on Friday morning was Squeeze Box with Mollie B.
They played traditional polkas with a lot of animation and got everyone dancing. Mollie was the first of many excellent musicians we were to experience; she played the keyboard with her left hand while playing her trumpet with her right! She also sang and played the concertina and saxophone for different songs. She was bubbly and they put on a terrific show. I leaned over and told Bruce “I bet she’s a music teacher.” Later when she was signing autographs, Bruce had the chance to speak with her and I was right, she was a teacher. She recently left teaching and was trying to make a go of the entertainment business. She hosts a five hour polka show that is apparently quite popular and considering that she has been nominated the United States Polka Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year four times in a row, she just might make it!
As Mollie B was finishing taking her bows, the next group was completing their sound check. It went on like that all weekend, non-stop. One group would set up on one side of this wide stage while the other group was performing. The music went on from 11:00 or 11:30a.m., for twelve hours or so. Bruce and I went to bed long before the music was over. I really felt bad for the sound man’s assistant; he never stopped moving mikes and running wires all weekend.
The second group we heard was as unconventional as they come. From all appearances The Alex Meixner Band was just another polka band. That’s where the similarities ended. The picture shows Alex, on stage, with the Narren. They are the folks dressed in the wooden masks. Narren means "fools" or "merrymakers. They were around all weekend and they were a delight! Alex, who’s from Florida, plays piano and piano accordion, drums, diatonic button accordion, bass, trumpet, and alpen horn. Being a music major and having grown up in a musically talented/performing family, he is well versed in any genre of music you can name. The band would begin with a sweet German waltz and segue into a frenetic version of “Play Some Polka Music, White Boy” within seconds. While everyone had a ball the entire time his band was on stage, they never knew what was coming up in the next measure. This was very apparent in the zany way he incorporated the Beatles, Czech polkas, Aaron Copland’s Hoe-Down from Rodeo, and Johnny Cash in the same fifteen minutes of music without stopping for a breath in between. His most recent album is Three Ring Circus and that pretty much sums up his performance. He plays with such exuberance and joy. I’ve never witnessed anything like it and words fall short of adequately describing it. You have to experience Alex to truly become an Alex groupie, but if you want to check him out, Google him. There’s a lot of videos on You Tube. We saw his talented band play four times and would go again tonight if he was playing in the area.
New Ulm citizens have a longstanding tradition of being musicians. Many belong to the community band or one of the other performing groups we saw. One of the most well known groups is a men’s singing group called the Concord Singers. The membership consisted of perhaps 35 vocalists, a drummer, and a woman accompanying them on the keyboard. Something I read said that people commented when the soldiers from New Ulm marched off to fight in the Civil War that they were excellent singers, singing as they marched along. The love for singing has continued through the generations. The Concord Singers presented a program of traditional songs, usually with the first verse in German and then in English. The strength of their combined voices raised in song was wonderful to experience.
The last day of the Bavarian Blast we had the privilege of hearing two bands from Germany who were touring the US, playing at festivals such as this. The first, Musicorps Einhausen, was a group of perhaps forty-five community members from Einhausen, Germany. The average age of this group was about twenty, but there were some older folks as well. They played predominantly German songs and were very well received by the early morning audience. The second group, Herborn Seelbach, was much larger and more polished. They had only recently added women, or dirndls, as the director’s wife called them, referring to the women’s traditional German attire. Almost every musician played at least two instruments. Their arrangements featured a lot of brass and the director’s wife said they favored American music, even when they were playing for their own enjoyment. They presented a wide variety of American music ranging from big band music such as In the Mood to show tunes such as New York, New York and Seventy-six Trombones, adding in a few German songs. They had an excellent singer who was, from time to time, joined by one of the women to sing along with the music. The director’s family members played in the band and his grandsons, aged about 5 and 7, were featured percussionists on a few songs.
The Bavarian Blast ended with some presentations by Mayor Bob and a gathering of all the musicians. The Concord Singers led a few songs with instrumentalists filling in and Herborn Seelbach performed God Bless America, the German national anthem, and the Star Spangled Banner to end the festival. It was truly a wonderful musical experience.