VICTORIA — It’s a traditional celebration of German heritage, but this year’s long-running community festival also will usher in several changes.
The 25th annual Herzogfest will be celebrated in Victoria on Friday and Saturday, with events at Victoria City Park and on nearby Main Street. One of the largest free festivals in the state, Herzogfest long has been known for bringing in free concerts each evening.
Local artists Blake Ruder and Homebrew will play Friday beginning at 7 p.m., with the Wes Windholz Band, Kill Creek Rising and Lucas Maddy and the Kansas Cartel taking the stage Saturday night.
“The entertainment is free, and I think that’s our biggest draw,” said Ashley Kanzenbach, a member of the festival’s planning committee. “It’s one of the biggest free festivals in Kansas. These days, you can’t hardly go see a band without a ticket costing you.
“And you get to see … four bands in the whole weekend. And all that entertainment is free.”
Other events will include food and drink vendors, with local winery Shiloh Vineyard selling its wine for the first time at Herzogfest. There will be 3-on-3 sports tournaments, horseshoes, bingo and pinochle, as well as free skin cancer screenings.
Children also will have plenty of activities to choose from, including free swimming at the city pool, Knockerball, inflatable bounce houses and banana bikes.
New to this year’s event will be the Herzogfest Heritage Market on Saturday morning. Approximately 25 local food and craft vendors will sell their wares beginning at 8 a.m. The event is in conjunction with the annual Herzogfest Rod, Custom and Cycle show, and is intended to draw more people for the morning’s activities, Kanzenbach said.
The Victoria High School volleyball team also will have breakfast available, including Hurts Donuts, as a fundraiser.
The car show will be from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., when awards will be given. There also will be a valve-cover race in conjunction with the show at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Other traditional activities will include a Polka Mass at 4 p.m. Saturday, and of course, German food.
“We’ve got to have the traditional things that present the reason why we’re doing this: Tradition, culture and just so people can reminisce about past memories they had growing up as a child in the community,” said Dace Winkelman, president of the planning committee.
The free event is sponsored by fundraising efforts throughout the year, including charity events, local grants and support from Victoria businesses and residents.
Herzogfest is a source of pride for many in the community, but just earlier this year, residents weren’t sure it was going to happen. A community meeting was needed to determine the festival's fate after years of dwindling volunteer support, Winkelman said.
“They asked the community if this is something they wanted to continue. They were so scarce on volunteers and committee members, they were worried they didn’t have enough manpower,” Kanzenbach said. “So they basically had a meeting and sent a list around the room of people who might want to help, and that’s how the committee grew.”
The answer was a resounding yes, as many residents wanted to see the festival stay alive. That meeting resulted in more residents stepping up to the plate, and the committee now has 12 members. More are welcome to join, Winkelman said.
“You could tell a lot of people in the community, they do have a lot of pride for their town and for their heritage,” he said.