German fest comes to Tomball
German fest comes to Tomball
Grady Martin doesn´t put the lederhosen on very often, but for the last weekend of the month, he´ll be happy to do so.
It´s part of his personal tradition in the service of keeping his German heritage, and that of his Tomball neighbors, alive for this generation and those to come.
Martin is president of the Tomball Sister City Organization, which produces the Tomball German Fest, set for March 29 – April 1. He expects the festival could draw upwards of 20,000 to the community north of Houston.
“Because it´s a free festival we don´t really know how many people come, but I can tell you it´s doubled in size every year for the past three,” said Martin, who traces his German roots through his grandmother and great-grandfather, who settled in America.
“When you think of Germans in Texas, most people think of New Braunfels or Fredericksburg, in the Hill Country, which was settled by Germans. But so was Tomball, and we went to keep our German heritage alive. That´s why we have the festival. “
In its seventh year, the festival, centered in downtown Tomball at 200 Market St., near the intersection of Main and Cherry, will include German entertainers, more than 150 vendors plying visitors with food, arts, and crafts, a carnival from Thursday through Sunday and a traditional German church service on Sunday morning.
“You will hear German being spoken at the festival,” said Martin, 63, a Tomball resident for 20years who moved to Texas from Mississippi 35 years ago. “This whole area was settled by German and Czech farmers, and 60 – 70 years ago in Tomball, it was not uncommon to hear people doing business in German. The language was taught in schools and churches.”
Martin himself has only been studying German for 10 years, prompted by frequent visits to Germany to visit his wife Sandra´s family. Born just after World War II to a family that had been pushed from East to West Germany by occupying Russians, she and her brother were adopted by an American military couple and raised in Louisiana.
Only after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 was she able to locate her birth mother as well as three more brothers and a sister.
The festival will feature polka star Chris Rybak, the Austrian dance band Alpenfest and the Walburg Boys, German music performers who also appear yearly at New Braunfels´ Wurstfest, set for Nov. 2-11 this year.
The performers first take the stage Friday from 6-11 p.m., with German yodeler and singer Walter Ross kicking things off. Band performances will be held on two stages from 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Sunday.
Friday night activities also include a party for the Texas German society ( with free beer for members ). The German Heritage Center, taking up residence at the Tomball Community Center, will show the offbeat movie “Schultz gets the Blues,” which includes the Bobby Jones Czech Band.
The evening ends with fireworks at 10 p.m. in honor of Tomball´s centennial.
Grady Martin, left, and polka master Chris Rybak of Hallettsville, who´ll bring his Tex – Czech sound to Tomball for the festival.