Since 1881, a very colorful scene has unfolded in Brenham, Texas each May. This festival is known as Maifest. It is a celebration highlighting our proud German heritage as well as showcasing the youth of our community. Except for several years during World War I and World War II, this event has been held annually since 1881 and has evolved into one of the most widely attended festivals in Texas. Each year, hundreds of volunteers work countless hours to produce a Junior and Senior parade and coronation along with a fun filled festival which includes a Kinder Village, authentic German tastes and sounds, cooking contests as well as quality musicians from around the state performing on the main stage.
The Maifest actually begins in January with the announcement of the Junior and Senior royalty. Once announced, the monarchs then take their traditional ride through town in the fire truck – a historical reminder that the Brenham Fire Department was the original sponsor of Maifest. The Serenade was originally held on Valentine’s Day. At that time, it involved a walk to the home of the newly appointed queen where she and her king were serenaded by the Brenham High School Band as they were introduced to the public. Although the event no longer includes a walk to the queen’s home, the Brenham High School Band still serenades our royalty as they are introduced along with their court themes.
Maifest takes place the first weekend in May, truly embracing the family emphasis and creating a local homecoming for those who have moved away. Maifest makes a perfect weekend for locals as well as visitors from around the globe! Our local Bed & Breakfasts can make this a complete weekend getaway package. The week is kicked off with an official ribbon cutting and Maipole dance. Friday showcases the Junior Maifest courts and Saturday focuses on the Senior Maifest courts. Saturday starts with a morning parade in historic downtown Brenham which include area bands, beautifully decorated floats, clowns and all the entries that make a parade exciting. The opening of the Maifestival along with the Great Thomas Carnival occurs at Fireman’s Park immediately following the conclusion of the downtown parade. The evening celebrations are held at the Fireman’s Park Baseball Field and include performances highlighting the local youth depicting the themes for the year. Live music concludes the evenings in the park. The festival continues through Saturday with many of the same activities as well as domino tournaments and a home-brew beer competition.
The Maifestival is an ongoing attraction for the entire weekend which highlights our proud German heritage with historical demonstrations and displays. The Kinder Village is a great place for the kids to spend the day. Games and rides are featured in this area. Our antique carousel which dates back to the early 1900’s is a ride kids of all ages must take part in. Have a craving for some festival food? The Maifest has some of the best around. From the traditional festival fares to authentic German cuisine, the Maifestival has them all. It truly can’t be a German festival without a little German soda water! Come and try all the traditional brands as well numerous variations of German brews and wine. Live German music can always be heard on the Maifestival grounds. From Alphorns to accordions, come and sit under the pavilion and take in the authentic German sounds. Lederhosen is optional; polkas and waltzes are mandatory! There truly is something for everybody at the Maifest!
Maifest marks the revival of life in early spring after a long cold winter. In medieval times, Maifest became the favorite holiday. People would gather spring flowers to decorate their homes and churches. They chose a King and Queen of May and villagers danced around the Maipole.
In 1986, the Axel F. Baehren family of Brenham, Texas donated the Maipole located on the grounds of Fireman’s Park. The current Maipole is based on the design of a Maipole that dates back to 1762 A.D., the replica of which is now standing in Bavaria, West Germany. Brenham’s Maipole depicts the figures found in the Maifest logo.
The Brenham Maifest will be kicked off with the traditional Maipole dance around our gorgeous Maipole in the park.
MAIFEST AND THE COMMUNITY
The Brenham Volunteer Fire Department, sponsors of the first Maifest, purchased the festival site, now called Fireman’s Park in 1884. The park became the city property in 1917 and was made available for the enjoyment of all Brenham citizens.
Through the efforts of Mr. Leon Simank and the 1948 Maifest celebration, $20,000 was raised and the Brenham Municipal Swimming Pool was constructed for the citizens of Brenham.
In 1951, under the direction of Reese B. Lockett, General Chairman of the Maifest, the present-day Brenham Maifest Association was organized. The Association’s sole objective was to continue the tradition of Maifest. It was declared that any profits realized from the Maifest would benefit youth activities in Washington County.
Throughout its existence, the Maifest Association has funded various worthwhile projects to benefit our youth. The most obvious is the underwriting of the construction and decoration of floats for the parade and the set for two colorful coronations. The expense of the setup and construction of the Maifestival grounds is also a Maifest responsibility which enhances the festive atmosphere of Maifest Days. The parades and pageantry affords our community a means of showcasing the talents and beauty of our youth while nurturing their sense of tradition and self-esteem.
The Brenham Maifest Association Mission Statement:
To promote appreciation of the cultural heritage of Washington County by continuing the annual “Brenham Maifest” celebration and expanding its activities; and to enrich the lives of the citizens of the county, with particular emphasis on the youth of our community; and to receive gifts, donations and funds for these purposes.