American Army base opens doors to thousands of Germans

American Army base opens doors to thousands of Germans

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — The U.S. Army’s Grafenwoehr Training Area opened its doors this weekend to thousands of German civilians – many lured to the base by the smell of Bratwurst and Texas barbecued ribs. The 59th annual German-American Volksfest was expected to attract more than 100,000 people over the weekend. It’s the only time of year the base is open to the public.

“This fest has become part of the Bavarian experience,” said Col. Lance Varney, base commander. “People look forward to it all year. It’s a legacy now.”

Grafenwoehr Mayor Edgar Knobloch said Germans look forward to mingling with Americans and, especially, to trying their favorite American foods.

“You know how it is here in Bavaria,” Knobloch said. “We like our beers. But I know that many locals who visit the fest want to drink real American beer, (try) their burgers or their spare ribs.”

“It is the smell of [American food] in combination with the special smell of an Army tent that makes the fest unique to me,” he added.

Knobloch said he has only missed one volksfest in 59 years.

“This (fest) is a great example for (what) it looks like when Germans and Americans are living in friendship,” Knobloch said. “Germans try to communicate in broken English. Americans try to communicate in broken German. And at the end, Germans and Americans understand each other and they get along well.”

The festival’s popularity and large turnout presented challenges for base security. The base worked with the local polizei, utilizing courtesy patrols from tenant units and tightened security at base entrances.

“I think we’ve prepared well, and we’re set up to have a great fest,” said Barry Beilhart, the garrison anti-terrorism officer. “I think it’s going to be a great time.”

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