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Partnerstadt: History, Charity, and the Tomball German Fest

Partnerstadt: History, Charity, and the Tomball German Fest

Illustration by Kelly Willis

Partnerstadt: History, Charity, and the Tomball German Fest

In the mid-1800s, European settlers ventured into the lush lands surrounding Tomball, finding forests akin to Germany’s famed Black Forest. These woods proved ideal for a burgeoning lumber industry, while the fertile soil promised prosperity in farming and livestock.  Between 1865 and 1900, a wave of 40,000 German settlers sought new beginnings in Texas. Around 1900, the town surrounding modern-day Tomball, was called Peck,Texas. The name was changed in 1907. Peck was renamed to Tomball, after local resident Thomas Ball, who is credited with bringing the railroad through the town.

You can see the rich German heritage of those early settlers sprinkled throughout Texas, in its food, music, and the names of streets, schools, and more. Their local legacy echoes through names like Wunderlich, Weinberg, Buvinghausen, Theiss, and Klein.

Tomball shares a special bond with Telgte, a sister city in Germany, solidified by a heartfelt agreement in 1999. It’s believed that Telge Rd. may bear this name as a nod to this cherished connection. The Tomball Sister City Organization was developed to uphold the heritage of the local settlers with a promise to host students from Telgte in local Tomball host homes through the foreign exchange program. In 2001, the organization hosted the first Tomball German Heritage Festival. Twice a year, Tomball continues to host these vibrant German Heritage Festivals in March and December. These celebrations are skillfully orchestrated by the Tomball Sister City Organization and are used to raise funds to assist with the exchange program between Tomball and Telgte.

This year’s December festival, set for December 8-10, 2023, promises a lively extravaganza. A complimentary shuttle from HCA Houston Healthcare Tomball will be available during festival hours, ensuring convenient access. The event kicks off on Friday, December 8 from 6PM-10PM, followed by Saturday, December 9 from 10AM to 10PM, and Sunday, December 10, from 10AM to 6PM. The venue, located at 201 S. Elm Street, Tomball, Texas 77375, offers both free admission and parking.

On Saturday, December 9, the day kicks off with a parade down Tomball’s Main Street at 11 AM, followed by the iconic “Tapping of the Keg.” A warm Willkommen Ceremony awaits German Exchange Students and their Tomball host families, along with the grand opening ceremonies for the festival.

Attendees can revel in a range of festivities, including the exhilarating Bier Stein Hoist Contest, where competitors test their mettle by holding a full stein at arm’s length. The chicken dance contest promises lively fun, while the crowning of Ms. German Fest adds a touch of regal flair.

The Tomball German Christmas Market has earned acclaim from travelmag.com as one of the “20 Best Christmas Markets in the U.S.” With three stages of live music, the festival will resonate with melodious beats. For the little ones, pony rides and a petting zoo promise a good time, while street performers add an element of surprise and wonder.

The festival draws a host of food vendors that offer both traditional German fare and modern takes on cultural favorites, alike. Visitors can choose from savory pretzels and bratwursts, cure their sweet tooth with strudel, caramel apples, and breads, and even sample traditional drinks like mulled wine, or “Glühwein”. There is no shortage of tasty treats for patrons to choose from!

The Tomball German Festival stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of the German heritage in this Texas town. Its rich history and vibrant festivities continue to unite the community, offering a taste of both local and international culture for all to enjoy. The Tomball Sister City Organization has done an outstanding job collaborating with the local community, international partners, and “freunde” from around the nation to celebrate the rich German culture while preserving the memory of Tomball’s first German settlers.

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