Germanfest at Old Stone House a feast for lovers of good times, good food and the good ol’ days
By Hugh Fisher
GRANITE QUARRY ó “These days, it seems just about everyone in Rowan is related to the Braun family some way,” Kay Wilson said.
Her blood is tied to the Old Stone House, the home of Michael Braun built in 1766 and that today is the Rowan Museum’s showplace.
Wilson, with her daughter, Katie Hart, and son-in-law, John Hart, brought granddaughters Saylor and Sophie to the Old Stone House for Saturday’s Germanfest ó a museum fundraiser and a chance to see living history.
“I think it’s good for the children to start knowing their heritage,” Wilson said as the girls ran from dipping candles to seeing the other activities being held as part of Germanfest.
The Old Stone House, probably the only remaining colonial-era structure in the county, regularly opens its doors to schoolchildren.
But adults got their chance to experience hands-on history Saturday, while enjoying good food and drink and live music for a worthy cause.
“The turnout has been great,” said Kaye Brown Hirst, executive director of the Rowan Museum.
She said the fundraiser met its goal, with about 125 tickets sold at $25 per adult.
Many families are already familiar with events held at the house in the spring and at Christmastime, which Hirst said have been well-received.
The board wanted to plan a fall fundraiser, she said, but a traditional Oktoberfest would have had to compete with too many other events that month.
The end of summer, she said, is when the Braun family and other German immigrants to Rowan would have been getting ready for harvest time and winter.
So guests got to experience basket-making, the preparation of sauerkraut and candle-dipping using wax melted over an open fire.
Staff took pains to make the night authentic. Uta Braun, a museum docent and German language expert, talked to guests about the history of the home and the culture the Rowan Brauns brought to America.
“I’m the only one here who still spells my name the correct way,” Braun joked.
The menu featured foods the German immigrants to Rowan would have loved, including sauerkraut and knackwurst, schweinefleisch (pulled pork), grüne bohnen (green beans) and apfelkuchen (apple cobbler) for dessert.
As for the liquid refreshments … well, tee and bier still sound like what they are, even with German spellings, and they were also in abundance.
And though the grounds echoed with live bluegrass music in deference to the Southern heritage of Rowan ó brass bands are an Old World tradition, Hirst said ó it was easy to imagine a long-past time.
Ken Almond and Shirley Russell toured the house and grounds. Almond pointed out the echoes of the music among the trees and said he was amazed to think of family gatherings that would have been held here nearly 250 years ago.
“How hard it must’ve been to live here in those days,” Almond said. He and Russell drove from Albemarle after reading about Germanfest in the Post.
“And, how fortunate we are not to have to work so hard.”
Woodworking, living off the land, maintaining a household ó all these historical facts were on display.
But the evening’s old European charm was the draw for most in the crowd that gathered under tents to relax as the sun went down.
“The museum staff does a great job of bringing the history,” said Larry Brown, a descendent of the Braun family and member of the Brown-Fisher Association, which holds a reunion about every three years at the Old Stone House.
Brown and his own immediate family said they enjoyed Germanfest, and the chance to see the Old Stone House.
“It’s another one of Rowan County’s little-known gems,” Candace Brown said.