Pommersche Tanzdeel Freistadt Performance Group Preserves Pomerianian Heritage With Folk Fair Participation

Nov. 13, 2012

The traditions of Pomerania, a historic region on the South Baltic Coast, are carried through locally by the Pommersche Tanzdeel Freistadt. The song and dance group is celebrating its 35th anniversary and will be performing at the 69th annual Holiday Folk Fair International, which will be held Fri., Nov. 16 – Sun., Nov. 18, at the Wisconsin Exposition Center at State Fair Park in West Allis. Produced by the International Institute of Wisconsin, Holiday Folk Fair International’s theme this year is “Celebrate the Culture of the Story.”

“We’ve been doing Folk Fair for about 30 years,” said George Radtke, president and music director of Pommersche Tanzdeel Freistadt. “It’s a lot of fun. It keeps us active and connected to heritage and it’s a great family activity as well.”

Although the Pomeranians settled in Wisconsin more than 150 years ago to escape religious persecution in Germany, the local cultural performance group had its origins in 1976. That’s when the state historical society brought in a Pomeranian dance group from Erlangen, Germany, for the dedication of the Pomeranian Village in Old World Wisconsin. Radtke explained the group was hosted by the Alte Kameraden band and families in Freistadt, the original Pomeranian settlement in Ozaukee County. “The German group couldn’t believe how many old Pomeranian Lutheran families were still in that town,” he said. “One year later, 40 young people from the Freistadt area went to Germany. They stayed in the dancers’ homes and learned Pomeranian folk dances. As a result of that exchange visit, we formed our group.”

Pommersche Tanzdeel Freistadat is composed of three age groups. Children 6 through 8 are called Lütten. They learn simple dances and songs in German and participate in storytelling and games that teach them about their ethnic heritage. The Backfische are 9 to 13 years old, and learn more complicated dances and choreography. The main performing groups are the Jugent, ages 14-20, who performs with the adult group Erwachsenen. All groups will be dancing at the Holiday Folk Fair. They will be at the All Nation’s Theater Nov. 16 at 8:30 p.m.; Nov. 17 at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.; and Nov. 18 at 3:30 p.m. Music Pavilion performances are at4 p.m. Nov. 17 and 1:30 p.m. Nov. 18. The younger group will be at the Young Peoples Showcase Nov. 18 at 12:15 p.m.

Radtke said the group numbers about 75 with a repertoire of 30 dances and an active performance schedule at many festivals and events throughout southeastern Wisconsin and the Midwest. The dancers are often accompanied by musician and singers known as Pommersche Spӓldeel, who sing and play the accordion, flute, piccolo, recorder, violin, guitar, and mandolin. The musicians and vocalists will be performing in Holiday Folk Fair’s coffeehouse Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.

“It’s something that we have all found to be very enjoyable and rewarding from a lot of different perspectives so we want to keep it strong and keep it going,” Radtke said. “Our group has a few direct descendants of the original Pomeranian settlers, but many are from the various communities from the north side of Milwaukee, the North Shore, and the northern suburbs. Most of us have a percentage of German heritage and an appreciation of German culture.”

Produced by the International Institute of Wisconsin, Holiday Folk Fair International celebrates the cultural heritage of the people living in southeastern Wisconsin. This year’s theme, “Celebrate the Culture of the Story,” will allow Fair-goers the opportunity to learn the ways in which music, food, dance, and art explain a culture’s history and traditions.

Special attractions at this year’s event include the “One World, One People” photo exhibit, the Sister Cities International Young Artists and Authors Showcase, the UNESCO World Heritage Sites photo exhibit, an Old World Wisconsin display area, the Wisconsin Woodturners, and a bonsai exhibit. The three-day event features the World Café offering traditional dishes, Heritage Lane with unique traditions and customs through interactive exhibits, the International Bazaar where cultural artifacts create a unique shopping experience, and the Callen Construction Cooking Demonstration Stage featuring local chefs preparing traditional cuisine.

Holiday Folk Fair International will also host a United States Citizenship Naturalization Ceremony Sat., Nov. 17, at 10:30 a.m. and an “Around the World” 5K Run/Walk Sun., Nov. 18 at 9:00 a.m.

Hours on Fri., Nov. 16 are 2 p.m. – 10 p.m.; 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Sat., Nov. 17; and 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Sun., Nov. 18. Advance tickets will be sold for $10 each, with family four-packs for $36, and can be purchased on-line at www.folkfair.org.

Admission at the gate will be $12 for adults; $8 for children ages 6 to 12; children under the age of five will be admitted at no charge. Those 62 and over will be admitted for $10, and all military personnel with a military ID card will be admitted free.

For more information on the 2012 Holiday Folk Fair International, visit www.folkfair.org or call the International Institute of Wisconsin at 414-225-6220.

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