The Odessa Record -

Welcome to the 49th Deutschesfest


September 19, 2019

Terrie Schmidt-Crosby

Chris Sewall celebrates attendance at his 40th consecutive Fest with his collection of rubber chickens and blow-up chickens.

Once Odessa had expanded from a mere railway stop with an adjacent general store to a thriving community, it has had a fall celebration in order to mark the completion of the harvest, the end of summer and the cooler days of preparing for winter. For many years, what was then known as the Commercial Club, a predecessor to the Chamber of Commerce of today, organized a fall festival that entailed music, sports and judging of livestock and garden produce, much like a county fair. In fact, for a time, a Tri-County Fair was held, which included a rodeo in the area of Finney Field, a carnival downtown, sidewalk sales by local businesses and the usual judging of produce and livestock.

A fatal explosion and fire at the carnival site during the fall festival in 1961 pretty much put an end to the fall festivals as they were known up to then.

By 1970, civic leaders had begun to yearn for a fall celebration that would draw more visitors to town. In casting about for a suitable theme, they came up with a salute to the German heritage of many of the early homesteaders who claimed farmland in the area around the turn of the 20th Century. And so Deutschesfest was born, and its first year of implementation was 1971.

There are local folks who have been here for every Fest since the beginning. And then there are also folks not from here who have a long tradition of visiting Odessa's Deutschesfest. One such person is Chris Sewall, who has roots and relatives in the area, but who has lived his life in the wet part of the state. He spent parts of his youth helping out at the farm of his aunt and uncle Norma and Jonah Heimbigner, along with their four boys, his cousins Jon, Barry, Lynn and Scott.

Courtesy photo

Kory Kolterman, left, and Trevor Smith spray down the sawdust in the Biergarten with water, while Shawn Steward drives the fire truck.

For the past 40 years, Chris has come to Fest early enough to ensure that he can park his RV at the Odessa Tourist Park, many years with members of his extended family camped beside him. Chris and his wife Kathy arrived in time to claim their spot again this year and have been seeing the sights of Odessa and the surrounding area all week.

Chris has also shared with us his collection of rubber chickens from various years when he snagged the coveted birds during the Chicken Dance performed by the Oom Pas and Mas. His campsite resembles a shrine of sorts to the famous denizens of the poultry world.

In retirement, Chris and Kathy spend a few months of the year in Lake Stevens, a few months in Tulalip and then head south for the winter in Yuma, Ariz.

Welcome back to the Deutschesfest, Chris and Kathy. Hope to see you for many more.


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