LANSING, Mich. — Frankenmuth, Michigan’s “Little Bavaria” has a lot to offer. Food, products, and even activities are to keep German traditions alive. As a German native and reporter of the story, Luisa Wiewgorra wanted to see how German the city really is, starting with the Bavarian Inn Restaurant.
“There's a lot of traditions that we have,” said Amy Zehnder-Grossi, the general manager of the Bavarian Inn Restaurant. “We love making pretzels. We love drinking beer. We love our festivals and Frankenmuth has lots of them throughout the year. There are lots of traditions that we try to keep up, especially during that Bavarian festival time.”
The Bavarian Inn Restaurant celebrates an Oktoberfest in September, which was sanctioned by the Oktoberfest in Munich. “They recognized it as a legit Oktoberfest,” Zehnder-Grossi said.
The restaurant has 1,200 seats and was taken over by the Zehnder family in the 1950s.
“Our most popular meal is our family style chicken dinner, which is not super German, but a Frankenmuth tradition,” Zehnder-Grossi said.
Other items on the menu include German-style Wiener Schnitzel, Sauerbraten, and Apfelstrudel.
Even though the Bavarian Inn’s staff wears Lederhosen and Dirndls, Zehnder-Grossi agrees that they are just costumes, which are commonly worn at German celebrations such as the Oktoberfest.
The guests of the restaurant can enjoy the music of Accordion Player and Veteran Devin Hahn. “The thing I love the most is my interactions with the guests and being able to meet people and bring a little bit of joy into their day by playing an instrument that they don’t get to hear very often.” Hahn can sing a German song!
Another favorite of Frankenmuth visitors is the Frankenmuth Brewery, especially since beer cannot be missing in a German town.
“People absolutely love our beer. We sell it all over the area,” said Jenifer Pierson, the manager of Frankenmuth Brewery. “We brew all of our beer right here in house. All of our beer is all German beer so we get all of our hops and all of our barley from Germany and we just brewed here in house.”
According to Pierson, their most popular beer is the “Christmas Town,” which is released every November. “Our second most popular beer here is the Hefeweizen and that is the oldest and one of the best brews that we got here,” Pierson said.
A must-go in Frankenmuth is Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, which is with over 10,000 isles of Christmas ornaments the world’s largest Christmas store.
CEO and President Wayne Bronner shared the story of Bronner’s origin. His father, Wally Bronner, was a sign painter and window trimmer when he was asked to paint signs for the village of Clair. “They were so admired by so many people that he got into the Christmas business and the rest is history,” Bronner said.
When Luisa asked him if he can speak German, he answered, “Ja, ich versuche Deutsch zu sprechen (Yes, I am trying to speak German).”
Their most popular item is a red four-inch ornament. 40 years ago, Bronner’s father started painting the names of children on the ornaments. Now, they have ornament artists to personalize the customers' favorite.
One of them is Aimee Cook, who paints about 50 a day.
"Christmas 365 days a year, right? Who doesn’t like Christmas,” said customer Rene Yorkievipz.
Even though the tradition of hanging a pickle in the Christmas tree is not a tradition Luisa has have ever heard of in Germany and fried chicken dinners are not a German tradition, many foods and products in Frankenmuth’s restaurants and shops are German.
Frankenmuth gives her the feeling of being home away from home and if you are looking to explore German culture a little bit and can’t take a trip to Germany, Frankenmuth is the place to go!
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