Germanfest with our Germans
Written by Karen Walker
In 1996, he Three Rivers Velo Sport club had the pleasure to sponsor a group of bicycle riders from our sister city of Gera, Germany during their visit this year. They brought their bikes and took part in many of our club rides, visited the Tour de Loops, and raced in the Germanfest bicycle criterium. Our club's publicist, Karen Walker, has written down some of her memories of their visit.
As I and other members of Three Rivers Velo Sport sat at the airport on June 5th awaiting the arrival of seven German cyclists, who would be staying in our homes for the next 11 days, many of us were nervous about how the visit would go. Little did we know then, how much fun was in store for us during the next week and a half and what good friends we would make from another country.
The seven German cyclists came to Fort Wayne as part of an exchange program with Fort Wayne's sister city of Gera, Germany. Three Rivers Velo Sport agreed to host the group, which included finding homes in which the cyclists could stay while in Fort Wayne and planning activities for the group.
The German riders included Jan Lewerenz, President of RC Gera 92, a bicycle club in Gera, who stayed at my home and was hosted by me and Mike Heyes; Thomas Kunast, hosted by Chuck and Marilyn Bash; Karl-Heinz (Charles) Hildebrandt and his son, Eric, hosted by Anne Stratton; Robert Streicher, hosted by Roger and Valerie Puckett; Mario Prohl, hosted by Steve Souers and Denis Schneider, hosted by Kent Ellis. Thomas, Eric, Mario, Robert and Denis are licensed racers, who raced in the Criterium on June 15 and did very well. Eric, who is 16, won the Juniors' race after lapping the rest of the riders two times; and later in the day, he raced again and stayed with the front group in the Cat III event.
All the visitors except Charles, brought their bicycles, which they put together the morning after their arrival at Koehlingers on Illinois Road, with the able help of Kathy Boling, Ben and Gary and the gang there.
The German cyclists participated in numerous rides while they were here including the club ride on Saturday, June 8, from Huntertown to Chain-O-Lakes, the Tour De Loops, the club race training ride on Tuesday, June 11, and several impromptu rides with various club members. Those included a ride to Auburn with Steve Souers to see the car museum and a ride on Friday before the Criterium with Mike Heyes, Anne, Marilyn, Valerie and me. The German riders were so courteous when they rode with us that Marilyn and I had a difficult time convincing them to go ahead and not wait for us.
The hosts took the German cyclists out for dinner as a group on two occasions, and they took us out once. Before attending the Club meeting the day after their arrival, we took the cyclists to LaMargarita. There they learned about Burrito Grande's and Root Beer, which was translated in their guide book as "dark herbal lemonade." Hey, how would you describe root beer?
The root beer was not a big success with our German visitors, but other events were. The older visitors seemed to particularly enjoy the Germanfest Beer Tent and their visit to the Sundown Saloon, arranged, of course, by Mike and Steve. While he was here, Jan really got attached to Edy's Ice Cream and Mike's Harley. We taught him the term "Rice Burner" and a few other English words he was not taught in school. The visit culminated with a great cook-out for the host families and the Germans at the Pucketts' home on Saturday evening, June 15.
When the Germans arrived, some of them did not know very much English and communicating was difficult at first. We quickly learned how to use the German/English dictionary and how to communicate by hand signals or using different English words that they could more easily understand. By the end of their visit, they had learned a lot more English; and Jan had tried to teach me some German, although I had trouble rolling my R's like he did.
We had a great time with our German visitors, and there were some tears at the airport as we bid our new German friends Auf Wiedersehen. Just before he got on the airplane, Jan gave me his German/English dictionary, so I could learn German before I go to Germany to visit him.