PARKERSBURG - Several hundred people braved the cool rain to learn and celebrate German heritage during First Lutheran Church's German Fest on Saturday.
"We are highlighting our German heritage and sharing it with the community," said Pastor Ian Reid.
This is the first time the church, which is located on the corner of 19th and Plum streets, has held a German festival of any kind since 1977.
Gerry Kohler, archivist with the First Lutheran Church, points out photos of the original church at 10th and Avery streets, which was destroyed in 1909 when Parkersburg’s city water towers fell. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
"The last German fest we had was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this church," said Gerry Kohler, archivist with the congregation. "It has been a while."
Stephanie Spencer, chair of the German Fest committee, said the church is trying to bring the German festival back to the area.
"We are hoping to be able to do this every year," she said. "It is something we want to do to let the community know how important the German heritage is."
The festival included traditional German foods like potato salad, sauerkraut and sausages, as well as polka dancing, hymn singing, live music and crafts.
"We want to show people of all ages a few traditional crafts, including pretzel rolling and German flag making," Spencer said. "These are things for all ages to do."
Along with the celebration of the German heritage, the event also showed off the church, which was built and opened in 1927 after years of the congregation collecting funds to build a new house of worship following the 1909 destruction of the first St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church.
"The first church was at 10th and Avery streets and opened in 1905 with a brand new organ from Germany," Kohler said. "Unfortunately, the church and organ were destroyed in 1909 when the city water tower fell."
The current church's archive room displayed photos of that first church and the aftermath of the disaster along with items from the congregation.
"People don't realize how important the German heritage was to the church until they look through the records and notice that through 1943, the ladies' church notes were written in German," Kohler said. "That's a surprise and, unfortunately, we can't find anyone who can translate it for us."
Along with this year's German Fest, First Lutheran also holds an annual picnic for parishioners.
"Next year will be our 100th picnic and we are planning to bring back as many games and things done at that first picnic for next year's centennial event," Kohler said.