VICTORIA — Terry Pfeifer has no problem pronouncing “Grosseschweinefleish” when describing the food served Saturday at The Helping Hands of God booth at Herzogfest.
“It means huge pork sandwich,” explained Pfeifer, a Victoria native who’s volunteered at the booth along with his wife, Cathy, and a large bunch of friends for about eight years. During a pause in making sandwiches, he said the festival holds a special place for the couple.
“We met here,” he said. “Last year was our 25th anniversary.”
Friends of the Pfeifers started the booth about nine years ago, selling the $7 pork sandwich that took them awhile to figure out how to say and spell. Their customers at Herzogfest help them raise money to donate gift cards for food and necessities to people in need. Through the years their hundreds of volunteers have raised more than $100,000 at Herzogfest and other events, said Chris Windholz, one of the group’s dozen founders.
“We’re just facilitators,” Windholz said, getting back to preparing Texas Toast. “It’s the generosity of the community that this happens.”
Other food booths had similar goals — raising money for one cause or another.
At the Victoria High School track and basketball fundraising booth, the athletes and their coach, Colin Schmidtberger, were selling $3 cheddar brats donated by the Hays Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9076.
Along with Schmidtberger, Walker Braun, 17, Tyler Knoles, 18, and Joshua Schulte, 16, said they’ve been attending Herzogfest as long as they can remember.
“Herzogfest is a celebration of the Volga German ways — that’s what a lot of the people in this area were,” said Joshua, who says he learned the history of the town from his uncle the mayor, John Schulte. “That’s why you see the noodles and beans, the chicken and noodles, and the dumplings.”
While there originally were two neighboring settlements, Victoria and Herzog later merged but kept the name Victoria, he explained, which was tied to the Kansas Pacific Railway.
“You might want to confirm my facts,” he said, “but the festival is a tribute to the original town of Herzog.”
Dace Winkelman, president of the Herzogfest Committee, estimated that close to 2,000 will attend the 2018 event, which started Friday evening and was to continue through Saturday night. Now in its 36th year, there were new events on the schedule this year, and for the second year the market had a sizable number of vendors, 26, selling everything from homemade soap and cooking gear to clothing and craft goods.
While Saturday morning and afternoon drew a big crowd, Winkelman predicted the street would be “shoulder to shoulder” Saturday night with Sister Whiskey and the Wes Cossman Band playing in concert.
Herzogfest’s car show, in addition, had grown to more than 100 entries this year, with not only vintage cars but also motorcycles, tractors and even a boat from days gone by, said committee member Ashley Kanzenbach.
Winkelman and Kanzenbach each married into the town, and while not Volga German they serve on the committee for the love of the community, they said, noting the only compensation might be free beer and food.
Ellen Schmidt, with the family owned Resurrection Vineyard north of Hays, could testify to the crowds this year. “It’s been long hours, but there are a lot of people,” Schmidt said. “We had over 150 tastings yesterday.” Winemaker Brett Schmidt, Ellen’s son, was pouring samples of his newest wine, Strawberry Sunrise, a blend that includes watermelon.
“I loved it,” said tasting customer Kerri Ralston, a Victoria native who came to the fest from her home now in Garden City. “It was really good,” agreed her friend Kerri Schiffelbein, Hays.
Especially popular this year has been the Cornhole tournament, which sold out almost immediately when the committee announced it on Facebook, Winkelman said. Participation was limited to 22 teams or the tourney would run all day, Kanzenbach said.
On a big green lawn downhill from the food and retail booths, Jarrod Pierson and his teammate Ryan VanSchuyver, both from Plainville, tried their skill at the lawn game, which they described as being kind of like horseshoes. Players toss bean bags, aiming at a hole cut into a board.
“We’re on the losers’ side right now,” VanSchuyver said. “But we’re coming back.”
Meanwhile, Girl Scout Troop 10240 sold $5 bowls of the Volga German staple, creamy dumplings. They started the tradition three years ago when another vender stopped offering them, said Primrose Hockersmith, Victoria, a troop leader.
“It’s a lot of work, but you can’t have Herzogfest without creamed dumplings. So the last two years we’ve done it,” Hockersmith said.
Their recipe takes 125 pounds of flour and more than 30 dozen eggs, she said. “You mix it all up and stand over a hot stove for six hours dumping the dough into the hot water.”
But well worth it, judging by all the festival goers lined up to eat at the various booths, which offered everything from funnel cake and homemade ice cream to sno cones and German fare.
Gwen Urban, Grainfield, was eating pigs in a blanket during a break at her booth, where she was selling colorful and fragrant homemade soaps. Three sets of her grandparents are German: Urban, Munsch and Legleiter. They settled in Pfeifer and Schoenchen.
Setting her bowl down, Urban admitted “You gotta have the German food.”