Hamler Summer Fest

July 26 - 27 - 28, 2024

50 Years of Hamler Summerfest History

1968 - 2018

Hamler Summerfest is a non-profit organization that has been putting on a German Heritage festival for the last 50 years. Due to its longstanding tradition, it is now affectionately called “The Grand-Daddy of Them All”. It is always the last full weekend of July. It is a three day festival, Friday through Sunday, with a free church service on Thursday night. They have a lot of really good German food, beer, and Polka music. Money raised from the festival is used to help out the local school programs along with maintaining the park, which is used by the community throughout the year. The park is 100% maintained through volunteerism and funds from their festivals and events. No tax money whatsoever is used for this community park. It is truly a volunteer organization with zero labor cost. No one working on the committee or during the fest is paid any money at all. They do it all to help out the local community and for free passes and beer while they work.

Hamler Summerfest started out in 1969 by the American Legion as only a one day festival held on the streets of down town Hamler. Over 800 people attended so it was decided to make it an annual event. The next year it was a two day event and then a three day event the year after that, and ever since. Now thousands of people attend the event every year.     

After the 1973 event, the people realized that it had outgrown the downtown area. 13 acres of land was purchased for $21,000, on the edge of Hamler. This land was to be used for the Summerfest and also for a community park.

In 1974 the largest tent ever erected in the state of Ohio was used. It was 300'x90' with a 105'x90' extension. Hamler was “The Fest” to go to during this time as it was the largest one in Northwest Ohio.

In 1977 a tornado hit the fest and blew the tent down. A lot of people were hurt but thankfully no one was hurt too seriously. Men tried to hold the tent poles down as they were flung into the air, but it was of no use. The tent tore into shreds and was sent flying. People ducked under tables and ran for cover. As the rain cleared people could be seen climbing out from underneath of what used to be the tent. The local Emergency crews were mobilized and everyone who needed care was looked after as soon as possible. Great thanks went out to all of the people who helped out that day. It really brought the community together.

In 1988 a 100' x 250' steel structure was built for the festival. This is almost as big as a football field, all under one roof. This structure also housed basketball and tennis courts for the public to use throughout the year.

During it’s heyday in the late 70’s to early 80’s the Fest, tens of thousands of people would attend and consume over 600 kegs of beer, around 2600 halves of chicken, 2000 lbs of Bratwurst, 1600 lbs of German Potato Salad and numerous roasters of Noodles, Beans, Sauerkraut, Hot Dogs, and Hot Beef Sandwiches.

In the 70’s and 80’s, WBGU-TV from Bowling Green recorded the Fest during different years and would play back these videos for years to follow.

Over the years the Fest started out with only Polka music. In the early 90's it was mostly Polka with a rock and roll band late one night. This format was used until 2007 when they went back to all Polkas. It was decided to stay true to their German heritage. It was a highly debated move at the time, but it proved to work out very well as they experienced a rise in attendance that year. It has been strictly Polkas ever since.

In the late 1990’s to early 2000’s the fest went through some hard times. Due to these changes, they experienced a decline in attendance. There were actually a few years where their operating expenses throughout the year, were more than the Fest brought in. In order to keep going, the Fest had to do something…

In order to raise more money and also to give back to the community, the HSF Committee decided to become more diversified. It was agreed that they would put on other events. They have had some spring events with Country Bands; Ohio State vs. Michigan parties; Cruise In’s, they help out with the Napoleon Rib Fest; and run a food building during the Henry Co. Fair. This has all worked out very well. Because of this diversity, the fest has really turned around. They are back into the black, so to speak. Attendance is up, and everything is looking to improve in the future.

In 2007 Hamler Summerfest went digital as they started up their own website. www.hamlersf.com The website has all kinds of information about all of the events throughout the year. It also has some park rental information.

In 2009 the Committee decided to form another Committee to start up a brand new festival, the Hamler Country Fest. The first few years of this fest saw some struggles and actually lost money. To keep things going and to pay back their debt they decided to have Chicken BBQ’s on the 2nd Sunday of every winter month. This has proved to be very successful and has kept them going through the tough times. In recent years the word has finally got out about the Country Fest and they have grown exponentially. Major Platinum Country Music Artists like Rodney Atkins and Jerrod Niemann have performed at their fest. The Committee for this new festival based their operating structure on the highly successful Hamler Summerfest which has helped them to greatly succeed too. And just like the Summerfest, all proceeds from the Country Fest are donated to the park.

In 2015 a deal was made to put up a cell tower on the corner of the grounds. Payments from the Cell Tower Company to buy out the lease enabled both Committees and the Park to pay off all of their loans, plus buy some bonds for future needs. Because of the debt free structure and the success of both festivals it has now enabled the Committees to invest in some major improvements to the park grounds. Permanent fencing was erected to totally enclose the park, new concrete has been poured for better accessibility for the handicapped, buildings have been painted, a Beer Garden has been put in and some new playground equipment has been purchased. Because of these improvements the Park has turned into a very popular wedding venue too.

To celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2018, the Fest will be showcasing Fest Memorabilia along with streaming photos and video. A special presentation from many state dignitaries is lined up to present a proclamation to the fest. The Marv Herzog tribute band will once again come together for this special event along with bands from as far away as Minnesota. A parade is also planned for Saturday to help in the celebration. A 5K race, corn hole, and beer pong tournaments are also on the schedule.

We hope that everyone can once again make it out to “The Grand-Daddy of them All” for some great times, great food, and great beer too.

Rob Panning

Hamler Summerfest – Hamler Country Fest – Hamler Community Park Chairman

July, 2018