Hermann’s Maifest Tradition
The original Maifest was an end-of-school celebration for Hermann children.
Although the exact date is unknown, local historians believe Hermann’s first Maifest was held sometime in the early 1870s, after the German School was built. Hermann’s early Maifests were last-day-of-school picnics for children, After church (the event was always held on Sunday), children would fidget through dinner with their families, waiting until it was time to assemble at the German School.
Maifest hostesses at the German School
Girls in new white dresses (the frillier the better) and boys in their Sunday best were given a Maifest badge by the teacher and an American flag by a school board member. The Municipal Band led a parade to the city park, where the first order of business was “the treat.” As the bugler blew a special call, children lined up, first for Knockwurst on a bun, then for a glass of pink lemonade colored with wine, and finally for an orange.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent playing games and visiting the concession stand, where 20 cents bought all the popcorn and candy a child could eat. Maifest Sunday was the highlight of many a Hermann childhood. “It was a high point of the year,” remembered one of Hermann’s older residents. “We lived for Christmas and Maifest.”
Hermann’s Maifest tradition grew into a citywide celebration in 1952 when the Brush & Palette Club advertised the first public Maifest to raise funds for restoration of the Rotunda Building, an unusual eight-sided structure in the city park that had fallen into disrepair.
The outcome was almost too successful. A crowd of more than 40,000 descended on an unsuspecting Hermann. Traffic was a nightmare, food was sold out for a 50-mile radius, and restroom facilities were better not mentioned.
The next year the women of Hermann cooked for a week to prepare for the crowds. The event was a success, and a new tradition was born.