Every summer all across the United States, small towns throw their annual community celebrations. These fun days in little hamlets throughout America go all the way back to our earliest settlers, who wanted to take a break from the endless hard work that they endured, if only for one day and evening. So they would organize simple games, large family picnics, perhaps a bake or craft sale, and usually some kind of dance in the evening with whatever musicians and singers happened to be from that town. For those in remote locales, I suppose it was just the local townsfolk who attended the festivities. In areas where there were nearby towns, probably those folks from ‘outside’ would make a day of it and travel by horse and buggy to take in the doings with their neighbors. For me, it rings wonderfully of Americana, and those earliest small town celebrations are events I would have loved to attend.
Fast forward to the present time, and honestly not much has changed. And sometimes, in my opinion, that’s just fine! Small towns still have their summer shindigs, and people from those towns still look forward to those events months in advance. One such celebration is the Sommerfest in Haubstadt, Indiana. Haubstadt is a small farming community in southwestern Indiana just minutes from Evansville. It is right there in the Tri-State Area that connects Indiana with Illinois and Kentucky.
I don’t know how Sommerfest got its start or how it worked years ago, but these days it is a three-day festival with a live band and beer garden each night between Thursday and Saturday, a full carnival, many local and regional food booths, a wildly popular 5K run known as the Laufenfest, many different dinners at the local fraternal clubs, a really nice parade on Saturday afternoon, an outdoor talent show with dancers from the local studio, and a big race at the local speedway on Saturday night. Haubstadt is a very German town, so there is a lot of German flair when it comes to Sommerfest, including the polka band singing to the finishers at the 5K. Plenty of bratwurst to be found in Haubstadt, as well. And these kids can drink beer! They don’t call it the 'Busch Light Capital Of The World' for nothing.
For me, though, the success of community celebrations like Sommerfest go one step beyond all of the official events, and stretch to the little individual gatherings that are held between friends and families. It’s those traditions like gathering at a certain house every year to watch the parade, or hanging out at the same family’s yard annually just before heading over to the biergarten that make me smile. Those, I believe, are the moments where the longest-lasting memories are created. I hope that you, like me, are from a small town that has its annual ‘thing’ each summer. That one weekend where you know you’ll see old friends, and very likely make some new ones. If you’re a lifelong city person, I hope you’ll take a chance to venture out to a rural town this summer when you hear about its annual celebration. I believe you’ll be glad you did. And next year, if you happen to be traveling near Evansville near the end of June, swing over to Haubstadt and take part in Sommerfest. When it comes to small town festivals, it’s the best in the Tri-State!