The German Family Society’s Youth Group "Jugendgruppe" (youth group) consists of teenagers and young adults ranging from 14 to 25 years of age that are interested in promoting their ethnic heritage by learning and performing traditional folk dances and songs. Practices and meetings are typically held on Sunday evenings, and include time for socializing among friends as well as rehearsing for future performances presented at our clubhouse and at numerous other events throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.
Some of our most beloved performances include “A Night in Vienna” (an annual formal dance held every January in our ballroom) with an elegant show of Strauss waltzes and Mozart minuets. We also perform at many other events such as at our own “Old European Days” festival, the “Kirchweihfest” (a traditional festival celebrated for over hundreds of years together with churches in many small towns of Europe inhabited by Danubeswabians – Folk Germans), and of-course at the famous “Oktoberfests”.
Each Labor Day weekend our youth group also travels to various cities throughout the U.S.A. and Canada for the National Danubeswabian “Trachtenfest” and “Tag der Donauschwaben” where youth groups from across the country have an opportunity to meet, make friends, and take pride in their German heritage by dancing for the festival. Additionally, on every third year, the National Danubeswabian Organization sponsors a first-class and very elite folk-dance competition named after Dr. Awender, one of our founding fathers. Proudly, our own Akron GFS youth were the first dancers in over 25 years of very difficult competitions to win the coveted first place prize twice in a row, while also receiving the first “Cristine Burmeister - Most Congenial Group” award that very same year.
The authentic costumes such as the “Dirndls” and “Lederhosen” worn during many of our shows come directly from Europe and are very costly (as is traveling around the country and to Europe), so we often have fundraisers to help defray some of our expenses. Making and selling traditional homemade German sausage is by far our most successful fundraiser, and is another way that our young people have fun together while experiencing another piece of their culture and heritage. The Youth Group typically makes sausage twice a year. Aside from rehearsing for performances, the GFS Youth Group also sponsors other social events such as camping trips, holiday parties, and field trips in order to promote friendships and family values. These have always been great ways to meet new people and make friends that last a lifetime!
How much does it cost to join the Jugendgruppe?
There is no fee to join the group, but each family is expected to become an Active or Passive Member of the German Family Society to sponsor their child's activity in the youth group program. Dancers over the age of 21 may have their own membership. Please see our membership page for yearly fees and for more information.
A youth group member must pay for all of their dance shoes, some hotel fees, some transportation, some food and drink, etc. unless otherwise decided upon by the group leaders. Youth group dancers are given a "grade" for attendance, the higher the grade, the more your trips will be paid for, or in full.
Youth group members and parents are asked to volunteer their time at our events and festivals in the kitchen, at the youth group fundraiser tents, behind the bar, or any other job that might help our volunteer organization. We also expect full participation in our yearly sausage fundraisers.
Please contact our group leaders for more information on how to join.
I am not German/I have no dance experience, can I still join?
No matter your heritage or previous dance experience (or lack thereof), we love to share our music and dances that have passed down for years with everyone!
I am/my child is very involved in sports/other activities, can they still join for fun?
We like to think of our dance groups the same as many sports programs. The more attendance your child has, the more they get to perform. Lack of attendance can lead to less dances performed, greater fees for trips, or further consequences. Please speak with our dance leaders to see if our program is right for you/your child.
Does your group perform for hire?
Yes! We love being able to dance for any venue, festival, cultural event, and more. Please contact our group leaders for rates.
German Family Society's Lederhosen 5K, 1 Mile Fun Run, & 50 Yd. Toddler Dash
Not your average fundraiser. The Youth Group makes sausage twice a year.
Pretzels, hot corn, lemonade... Need we say more?
"The award is sponsored by the Danube Swabian Foundation of the USA together with the Abt Family in memory of Maria Abt. Maria was one of the original members of the Danube Swabian family in the United States of America. She was active in the Milwaukee Donauschwaben group, the friendliest helper when needed and she first led the Youth group and then the Frauengruppe for many, many years. She organized the Danube Swabian cultural exhibits at Holiday Folk Fair and Germanfest. Maria was also the Landesverbandfrauengruppeleiterin." (https://www.dsfoundationusa.org/OMA_ABT_YOUTH_HERITAGE_AWARD.html)
First, second and third place winners in entries of 500 words or less are awarded cash prizes sponsored by the Danube Swabian Foundation of the USA together with the Abt Family. The contest is open to all active USA and Canada Verband youth members.
ENTRY TOPIC: What is the future of the Donauschwaben, and what can you do to ensure the continuation of the Donauschwaben and the Donauschwaben Verein?
"Our ancestors came from a long line of Catholic peasants and poor artisans, who escaped the Ottomans, settled along the Danube River and formed a unique cultural heritage and language. The Swabians, as their neighbors called them, later migrated to the states and created organizations to bind their communities together. The future of the Donauschwaben rests in the hands of me and their youth to pass on the legacy of our ancestors.
At the age of 20 years old, my great-grandfather emigrated from Germany to re-settle in the “Land of the Free,” specifically Akron, Ohio. Alfons Frank did not know the English language, and he carried few belongings. In the late 1920s, the job market in Germany was not promising, and despite my great-grandfather’s immense pride of his German heritage, he felt he would find more opportunity in the United States. Shortly after arriving in this country, he joined the Akron German Club where he met his future frau and participated in the Maennerchor - the men’s choir.
After Alfons passed away, my mother decided to join the German Family Society (GFS) of
Akron to stay connected to the German community. She wanted to raise my brother and me under the Donauschwaben influence so that we would grow up knowing the background of our family. My brother and I have danced in the Akron group starting as young children. The youth groups remain the most important key to continuing the Donauschwaben Verein.
To ensure the continuation of the spirit of our Donauschwaben ancestors, I can uphold the
virtues that our ancestors possessed including freedom, individuality, endurance, and integrity.
I can support policies that welcome immigrants to this country, realizing that we, too, once
sought the United States of America as a refuge, a place to escape the destruction of our people.
I believe that part of ensuring the continuation of the Donauschwaben and Donauschwaben
Verein is through allowing otherreligions and peoples to exist peacefully amongst our own,
encouraging the liberty to practice all aspects of their culture.
I can also join with my family, friends, and our club to preserve the cuisine, songs, dances, and customs celebrated so dearly by the Schwobs. By reaching out to the whole community, including
all German and non-German descendants, everyone can enjoy the Donauschwaben culture.
Friendship and cheer and acceptance should be the common themes prevalent in the groups.
I can also use education as a tool to interest others in their own history. We can tell the real
story about how our relatives escaped devastation in the midst of WWI and WWII or offer to
teach the Swabian dialect. Finally, I can assist with accruing funds from the festivals to organize
trips for members of our clubs across the U.S. to the Donauschwaben region in Germany.
The future of the Donauschwaben looks bright, as long as I and others like me collaborate to
ensure the continuation of the Donauschwaben and the Donauschwaben Verein." (Megan Landis, 2017)
Megan and her brother, Alexander, performing at our annual Oktoberfest.
ENTRY TOPIC: How did you/are you applying the lessons from the experiences of the Donauschwaben to the COVID-19 Pandemic?
"Since I joined the kindergruppe fifteen years ago, the German Family Society has grown to be like a second family to me. That is why it has been so hard to not see anyone from the GFS in person since March 14. I have not gone so long without seeing friends from dance since I was three years old. Still, if the GFS taught me anything, it is that the Donauschwaben have a strong dedication to family, and they always work hard to improve themselves.
At the beginning of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe in the span of a few short months. It continues to bring hardship upon billions of people. Some have lost their jobs, their homes, their loved ones, and even their lives. Those who have lost none of these must still contend with the emotional toll of isolation, and the economic and institutional turmoil brought on by the pandemic.
I fall into that latter category; I am lucky enough not to have lost anything tangible due to COVID-19 so far. Still, as a member of the Class of 2020, I spent the latter portion of my senior year learning on Zoom and talking to friends on FaceTime. I had no in-person graduation, and I am taking a gap year in the hopes that the world might return to a semblance of normalcy.
For me, the worst part of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the social isolation. Seeing friends through a screen is nothing like seeing them in person. Yet as much as I wish I could flaunt the guidelines of public health officials for a normal day with my friends, that would be unfair to my family; my parents and younger brothers have been working and learning from home too, and some of them are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than most. And since I share the Donauschwaben dedication to family, I stay home and FaceTime my friends instead.
Still, I have not been idle in the time since the world shut down in March. When they completed their journey down the Danube, the Donauschwaben dedicated themselves to improving themselves by cultivating the land under their feet. Like the Donauschwaben, I plan to spend this year making the most of the situation I have found myself in; I will improve myself however I can. I was lucky enough to find a job where I can work from home for the year. I have been using platforms like OpenCourseWare and Khan Academy to further my learning in subjects like linear algebra and chemistry. I never had an opportunity to learn German in school, so I have been using audiobooks to teach myself what I can, in preparation for taking courses in college.
COVID-19 will continue to make life difficult for some time. But the Donauschwaben principles of dedication to family and to self-improvement by hard work will help me respond to the situation in the best way possible and make the most of it." (Ilyana Smith, 2020)
Ilyana and her dance partner, Francis Bernhardt, performing at our Kent's Oktoberfest, 2019.
ENTRY TOPIC: Represent your Donauschwaben heritage using a visual arts medium (i.e. painting, drawing, sculpture, crafts, printmaking, photography).
"This piece is not only a representation of our heritage in the literal sense of the crest but also what it’s made of. This crest is made entirely of glass, which is the media I specialized in my advanced art class. Every line was carefully melted to match the intricate bends. It’s fused together to form a bond everlasting just as our donuschwaben groups are today. It truly represents my family and heritage. " (Michi Rodesheim, 2021)
Michi performing at our annual Oktoberfest, 2021.
Michi's glass medium Oma Abt entry.