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Historic neighborhood to celebrate its German heritage

Historic neighborhood to celebrate its German heritage

September 13th, 2017 by Philip Joens in Local News

Alan Finke shields his face with a bandana during last year's Oktoberfest as he stirs a piping hot batch of kettle corn for customers. Finke's kettle was passed down by his grandmother and has been used by his family for generations. Now, it's sole purpose is for making kettle corn.

Photo by Matt McCormack /News Tribune.

Oktoberfest will celebrate German heritage for the 17th year later this month as Jefferson City's Old Munichburg area continues a community-wide revitalization.

Hosted by the the Old Munichburg Association, the festival celebrates the German history of the neighborhood and funds association projects each year. Organizers said they expect 10,000-12,000 people to attend the festivities, which will be filled with dogs, music and beer.

Formed in 2000, the Old Munichburg Association works to preserve and celebrate the area's rich German history. This will be the 17th Oktoberfest, which serves as a fundraiser to support projects backed by the association to revitalize the area each year.

"We formed in 2000, and this was one of our first activities," Old Munichburg Association member Julie Schroeder said. "A lot of areas of Jefferson City have the challenges we face. We're tackling them bit by bit."

The weekend will kick off Sept. 29 with a German pot roast dinner from 4:30-7 p.m. at the Central United Church of Christ's dining hall. Outside the church will be a beer garden and a performance by Hermann, Missouri-based band the Loehnig Family German Band through 9 p.m.

Most Saturday festivities will take place within about eight blocks around Washington and Dunklin streets. Festivities will run 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 30.

A car show held by the Mid-Mo Old Car Club at the corner of West Dunklin and Broadway streets starts at 10 a.m. A beer and wine garden will open at 10:30 a.m. in the Prairie Farms Warehouse parking lot on Madison Street.

Bands will start playing on a stage at the corner of Washington and Dunklin streets at 10 a.m. The headliner, '80s cover band Burning Down the House, will take the stage 2-5 p.m.

Schroeder and Old Munichburg Association President Bill Luebbert said the event is designed to be family-friendly. A "Kids Korner" with crafts, pony rides, a petting zoo and other activities will be set up in the Hawthorn Bank parking lot at 211 W. Dunklin St.

Luebbert said the festival's signature event is the Dachshund Derby dog races. Registration commences 11 a.m.-1 p.m. A doggie costume contest starts at 1 p.m., followed by races of four dogs each on a course just west of the Hawthorn Bank parking lot.

Vendors and food trucks will line Dunklin and Washington streets.

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The Old Munichburg area dates back to the mid-19th century, when German immigrants built the area's brick homes and brewed beer at breweries in the neighborhood. Anti-German sentiments during World War I and World War II, combined with Prohibition in the 1920s, led to the neighborhood's decline in the 1920s and 1930s.

Since the creation of the association, slow but steady progress has been made to revitalize the area. Holding community festivals like Oktoberfest is one cog in the wheel. Others are smaller projects the association has taken on.

The association initiated plans that resulted in a community improvement district for the neighborhood in 2007 through a special assessment of $2.25 per linear foot of street frontage in the district. Resulting funds created money to replace aging sidewalks and gutters.

In 2002, the association led efforts to place more than 20 buildings in the district on the National Register of Historic Places. It also spearheaded efforts to form a partnership with Muenehberg, Bavaria, in Germany, from where many Jefferson City families immigrated.

Currently, the association is working to beautify Washington Street, a project that includes tree plantings, stonework and a historical marker commemorating the Munichburg Fire Bell Tower. The association also supports a proposed farmers market on Madison Street and the Southside Philharmonic Orchestra.

These small-scale projects, combined with projects led by other businesses in the neighborhood, led to the creation of the Historic Southside/Old Munichburg District & Neighborhood Plan that seeks to revitalize the whole neighborhood over the next 20 years.

"All you have to do is look around the Southside to see things like new sidewalks or beautification projects," Schroeder said. "One of the first things we did too was put up banners that welcomed you to our neighborhood. People started to see it as a distinct, special place."