Bayerischer Volksfest Verein
|The Story of the BVV|
The Bavarian people who settled in their "new world" of Philadelphia very much desired to keep alive the customs and traditions they loved, but left behind, in the "old world" of Bavaria, Germany. It was this desire that led to the formation of the Bayerischer Volksfest Verein in 1878. In December of that year, ads appeared in several German newspapers in the area asking Bavarians to attend a meeting for the purpose of founding a club called the "Bayerischer Volksfest Verein". The club would hold Bavarian festivals on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, which would parallel the original Bavarian festivals held in Germany.
At this first meeting, which was held on December 16, 1878 at the clubhouse of the Men's Choir on the corner of Fairmount and Franklin Streets in Philadelphia, forty people signed up to become members at $2.00 per person. A committee of 7 men was formed to draft a constitution for the fledgling club. On January 5, 1879, the first general membership meeting was held under the leadership of Colonel Theodor Haffner. It was at this meeting that the new constitution was read, amended and ratified. One new member, Mr. Robert Tagg, generously offered, free of charge, the use of his restaurant at 5th and Thompson Streets, for all future meetings of the club. Nominations were taken for the first election of the executive board until January 12 and the first election was held on January 16, 1879. Colonel Haffner was elected President and 12 other men were elected to other offices. The minutes of this meeting ended with the words: "The best guarantee of prosperity and success for this young club is that all be happy and cheerful with each other and also be completely honest with each other".
Monthly meetings were held thereafter and soon plans were made for the first Bavarian National Summerfest, which was to be held for four days in August, 1879. Since it rained on every one of these days, it was decided to try again on September 28 & 29. One hundred and twenty-five men, divided into eight subcommittees, organized the festival. Members and their wives all attended in native Bavarian costume, as well as visitors from such other clubs as the New York Bayerischer Volksfest Verein, the Philadelphia Rifle Club, the Cannstatter Volksfest Verein, and many more.
On December 26, 1879, the last meeting of the first full business year was held and the date of January 1, 1880 was selected for the new executive board elections. Over four hundred members attended that meeting and the same board was reinstated.
In 1930, the Bayerischer Volksfest Verein moved to the site of the Pfaelzer Casino at the corner of 7th Street & Girard Avenue, where Carl Schmid was elected to serve as president, an office he held for the next 13 years.
In 1940, the Pfaelzer Casino was bought out by the Bayerischer Volksfest Verein for $1.00 and all members of the Pfaelzer Casino automatically became members of the Bayerischer Volksfest Verein. The casino was renamed the "Bayern-Halle".
John Hausmann was elected in 1943 and served for the next four years. It was during his term, in 1944, that the present 14 acre site on Haldeman Avenue in Bustleton became the home for the club. The neglected old house, garage and garden were entirely rehabilitated by the energetic, hard work of all the directors and members, who came together every weekend to work for the good of the Club. The old "Bayern-Halle" at 7th and Girard was sold to the Tiroler Verein. Two years later, in 1946, a parcel of land on the east edge of the property was purchased by the club and cleared with the help and hard work of the members once again.
John Wagner served as president from 1947 to 1952. During his term, in 1948, the renovation of the club hall was completed; however, the membership decided against enlarging the hall to twice its size at that time.
In 1953, Markus (Max) Schmoigl, owner of an auto repair shop in Frankford, Philadelphia was elected president. He served his first term until 1960 and his second from 1963 to 1968. It was during his term that the membership grew to fourteen hundred active and four hundred passive members. Mr. John Wagner served as president during the two years of 1961 and 1962.
Hans Liebl was elected president in 1969 and served for the next two years. Under his leadership, the club was very prosperous and further renovation was completed.
In 1971, Willie Hix was elected president and the club celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding in 1878 during his term of office. Following Willie Hix, Hermann Schuetz became president of the club and served it well from 1979 to 1983. Emil Scheck served as president from 1984 to 1986. Willie Hix was re-elected president and served from 1987 to 1989. The current president, Alex Paraker, was elected in 1990.
The club continues to operate under the same constitution drawn up by the founding fathers in 1879, still dedicated to the original purpose of preserving Bavarian customs and traditions for its members and their descendants.
The Bayerischer Volksfest Verein is the home of the original Oktoberfest in the Delaware Valley, where members and guests can celebrate their German heritage following the annual Von Steuben Day parade, which is the second largest parade in Philadelphia. Bands from Germany are engaged yearly to entertain members and guests at the Oktoberfest.
In May of 2002, after closing the doors for the final time at 9940 Haldeman Ave, the BVV was welcomed in their new home as a guest club at the United German-Hungarian Club located at 4666 Bristol Rd in Oakford, PA.