Scenes from the 2016 Germanfest Picnic at Carillon Historical Park.

Carillon Park to no longer host Germanfest Picnic or its own German heritage festival 

UPDATED: Dayton History stated on Friday that they are no longer planning to host a German heritage festival. 

>>> FULL STORY: Dayton History cancels plans for German Festival at Carillon Park <<<

Liederkranz-Turner’s 34th annual Germanfest Picnic will not be held at Carillon Park.

Instead the park will hold its own 10-day German heritage festival, said Brady Kress, Dayton History’s president and CEO.

“The festival is going to be bigger and better than what they ever did here before,” Kress said. “It is no longer financially beneficial to us to continue to partner with them.”

Dayton History is the non-profit organization that operates Carillon Historic Park and several other historical sites. 

The new festival will be held Aug. 11 to 20 at the park located at 1000 Carillon Blvd. in Dayton.

Germanfest Picnic was planned at the park for Aug. 11 to 13. Those dates are still advertised on the German club’s website.

Letter from Brady Kress, Dayton History’s president and CEO, to John Koerner, the chairman of GermanFest Picnic.

John Koerner, Germanfest Picnic’s longtime chairman, said he was taken back by news of the new festival.

He said he only found out Wednesday that the Dayton History wanted to end its festival when he received a letter from Kress.

“I think it is disingenuous to undercut (us) and have their own festival,” he said. “They are going to try to build off everything we did over the last 33 years and that really annoys me.”

GermanFest is the 127-year-old club’s largest fund-raising event, bring in as much as $75,000 annually.

The future of the event will be among the chief discussion items when the 400-member organization holds its annual meeting on Sunday, Jan. 8.

A unique 1850's era brewery. Exterior of Carillon Brewing Company 1000 Carillon Blvd, Dayton, OH 45409 (937) 293-2841 Taproom: Mon-Sat 9:30am-10pm, Sun 11am-10pm Restaurant: 11am-9pm @carillonbrewingco JIM WITMER / STAFF
Photo: Jim Witmer

Kress said hosting the event no longer makes financial sense for the park.  

“People think we are public park, and we are not. We are a charity,” Kress said. “It became very obvious it was not a winning proposition for Carillon. We just cannot do this this way.”

GermanFest Picnic has been held at the park all but three of its 33 years.  It returned seven years ago. 

 “We invited them back into the park and started paying them,” Kress said. 

He says the park loses money and sees a drop in sales at Culp’s Cafe and Carillon Brewery during the festival. He said he could not quantify the amount of money lost or paid to the GermanFest Picnic.

“They walk away with tens of thousands of dollars, and we are left with the park to repair,” he said. “In its current form, it is a losing proposition for Carillon Park. Our sales in the brewery are terrible that weekend. As a nonprofit, we cannot in essence subsidize other groups’ fundraisers.”

Kress said the park only gets money from the sales of water and sodas during the festival. He said the club has refused to share proceeds from other sales in the past. 

“At the end of the day, they are keeping all the proceeds from the events other than soft drinks and water,” he said. “It hurts Carillon.” 

Bratwurst is a must at the Dayton Liederkranz-Turner Germanfest Picnic. (Staff file photo)
Photo: Chris Stewart

Koerner said he was baffled Kress’ statement, saying the the club pays the park $6,500 annually and has paid more the past two years for trash disposal. 

“The festival has been held at Carillon Park all but 3 of its 33 years,” he said. 

GermanFest Picnic left the park about 10 years ago for the Montgomery County Fairgrounds. 

Liederkranz-Turner and Dayton History worked out an agreement seven years ago to have the festival return. 

A five-year agreement was extended two years ago, but not renewed last year.

Alcohol sold at the festival is acquired under Carillon’s liquor licence, but Koerner said the club reimburses it.  

“I don't know how the hell he says he pays for us,” Koerner said. “I pay for the tents. I pay for the security. I pay for the golf carts. I am just appalled that they can try to yank this up from under us.” 

Volunteers show you what goes into the Liederktanz-Turner's beloved Germanfest potato salad.

Koerner said more than 1,000 volunteers work thousands of hours annually to put on the GermanFest Picnic. 

As much as $10,000 annually in money and club rents are giving to a list of groups that includes Boy Scouts, United Rehabilitation Services, Special Olympics. A portion the money raised from the picnic pays for scholarships the club grants. 

He said the park is not being a good community partner. 

“We have a limited number of (members), but our associates, friends and family number in the thousands,” he said. “To think they would try to take it over and confuse people and ruin it really annoys me.” 

When all is said and done, Kress said the decision to end the agreement is a tough business decision, but one that needed to be made for the benefit Dayton History and fit in to its mission and will enhance the brewery. 

The new heritage festival will feature 10 days of beer, brats, music and other entertainment. It will be open weekdays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.   

“It is going to be a 10 day blowout throughout the whole park. It is going to be really fantastic,” Kress said. 

“It’s a real revamping and expansion of what we have always done here.”

The park has changed dramatically over the years, as has Dayton History’s needs, Kress said.

GermanFest Picnic was the last of three large festivals that outside groups held held at the park.

AleFest Dayton left the park in 2011. 

>> MORE: Beer festival changes venues after 11 years 

Fleurs de Fete, formerly called Fleurs et Vin, was held there and benefited AIDS Resource Center Ohio, now Equitas Health, for a number of years. 

The event founded in 1990 by Heidelberg Distributing Co. and Arrow Wine & Spirits to benefit local charities was moved to Welcome Park near UD Arena and Welcome Stadium in Dayton in 2015.

Carillon Brewery opened on the grounds of Carillon Park that year and created complications with state licensing laws.

Fleurs de Fete returned to Carillon last May, and now benefits Dayton History. 

GermanFest Picnic
Photo: Staff Writer