Forest Park German Fest 2024: Everything You Need to Know

Enjoy German food and drink, live music, and games and activities for kids and adults at Forest Park’s annual celebration of German Heritage. The authentic festival will take place on Friday, June 21, and Saturday, June 22 – with food, music, games, and, of course, bier – at The Grove picnic grounds at 7824 Madison Street in Forest Park, just 10 miles from the Chicago Loop. The event is sponsored by the Harlem Männer-und Damenchor, Deutsch Amerikanischer National Congress (D.A.N.K.), and the Village of Forest Park.

From Oktoberfest in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, the center of Germanic activity in the Windy City, to Milwaukee’s famous German Fest, held annually in July on the lakefront Summerfest grounds, this region hosts some of the largest German festivals in North America. The Forest Park German Fest, held every June, is a popular tradition among residents and visitors to this charming community.  

Bring the family, raise a stein, oompah the night away, and make the annual Forest Park German Fest your new favorite tradition.


Why German Fests are Popular in the Chicagoland Area


While immigrants that arrived in Chicago from places throughout Europe spread across the Great Lakes region, the Chicago German immigrant community stayed close, held together by the German language, pride, and a determination to maintain their culture and traditions.


The North Side, or Nord Seite, was heavily populated by Germans, with Lincoln Avenue as its main artery, and the area now known as Lincoln Square pulsed with German life. German immigrants established schools, churches, and monuments until German immigration peaked in 1890, when stricter immigration policies along with a booming German economy drastically slowed the flow of immigrants. 


World War II brought a small influx of German refugees to the area, including German Jews, intellectuals, those opposed to the Hitler regime, and Germans from Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia who joined established communities dedicated to preserving the German language, culture, and traditions in their corner of America’s Midwest.


Across Chicagoland, local clubs and cultural institutions such as the Harlem Männer-und Damenchor DANK Haus German American Cultural Center maintain and promote their culture, heritage, and language through educational and social programming that emphasizes history and traditions and provide a forum for cultural exchange and social gatherings.


History of Forest Park German Fest


Longing for a Volksfest reminiscent of celebrations in their native land, the Forest Park Harlem Männerchor and the Damenchor (German Men and Ladies Chorus) started a small Oktoberfest on Madison Street in 1965. Over the next 20+ years, this small local gathering grew into a major three-day event with many groups participating. Large tents were filled with music and friends from all over the area reconnecting over a plate of sausage and sauerkraut (and a stein of course) and a dozen carnival rides entertained families. When attendance began to decrease steadily, due to the popularity of – and competition from – many Oktoberfest celebrations in the area, the Forest Park Oktoberfest faded away in the early 90s.


Over the years, village residents lamented the loss of the traditional Oktoberfest celebration and in late 2014,  the president of the Harlem German Choir met with Mayor Tony Calderone, determined to bring an Oktoberfest-like event back to Forest Park. Leaders at D.A.N.K. West agreed to partner with the Harlem Choir to organize a German festival, but since September and October are full of competing Oktoberfest events, the group decided to have a Maifest in the spring, and in June 2015 the first new Forest Park German Fest took over the large event space at The Grove.


What to Expect This Year


This year's lively celebration of German heritage and culture will attract families, food lovers, folk dancers, and plenty of beer drinkers. Once again, German beer, craft brews from Kinslahger Brewery in Oak Park, and German wines and liquors, plus lemonade and other soft drinks will be overflowing. Food tents will offer warm pretzels – the perfect companion for a cold, frothy draft.


You'll find sausages from bratwurst to thueringer and from landjaeger to hot dogs, and golden fried schnitzel and spaetzle. Vendors will sell hundreds of pounds of sauerkraut, red cabbage, and German potato salad before the final combo plate is served, and bienenstich filled with vanilla custard, buttercream, or whipped cream and a variety of streusels will tempt your sweet tooth. 


On stage Friday and Saturday evenings, the popular German band Paloma will fill the dance floor with crowd-pleasers like the "Fliegerlied," "Ein Prosit," "Sweet Caroline," the "Too Fat Polka," and the "Zigge Zagge" Polka. In addition to popular hits and classics, the group performs traditional songs from various regions of Germany, such as jodeling polkas from the south of Germany with master jodler Erich, Karneval songs from the Rhine River region, and  Seeman's Lieder (sailor's songs) from the north. Cowbell masters Erich and Goose also perform favorites such as "Edelweiss," "Das Kufstein Lied," and "Der Alte Peter." Their cowbell version of "House of the Rising Sun" is a crowd favorite!


Families will find plenty of gemütlichkeit (warmth and good cheer) and entertainment at German Fest; Wonder Works Children's Museum of Oak Park will be on hand to provide enriching play-based activities at the kids' tent. 


Forest Park German Fest dates & times:


Friday, June 21 -  4 p.m. to 11 p.m. 


Saturday, June 22 - 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. 


Address: The Grove - 7824 Madison Street in Forest Park


Admission is $2.00, and plenty of free parking is available on-site.


While You’re in Town


After you've partied the day away, or even before, you can explore the rest of what beautiful Forest Park has to offer. Forest Park is a leafy village that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and nature. You can spend some time exploring local parks and meadows, or visit attractions such as the Forest Park Historical Society Museum, Casket Arts Building, and the Haymarket Martyrs' Monument.


After a day of exploring, check out any of the incredible restaurants in Forest Park. For sandwiches, killer mac and cheese as featured on Chicago's Best, and stuffed burgers, head to Scratch Kitchen & Lounge. Take a seat at the bar with the locals, or settle into a table for a meal from a created-from-scratch menu. The owner, a Forest Park resident with a culinary arts degree and more than 25 years in the food service industry uses only fresh ingredients to bring you his creations. Plus, there's live music on the weekends.


For a taste of Venice, navigate to Caffe de Luca. It offers old-world-style dining and delicious seafood, steak, and pasta specials. From spring through late fall, weather permitting, the downstairs doors open to the sidewalk for outdoor seating. 


Don't forget dessert at the Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor. This community hot spot is a cool blend of a soda fountain, a bakery, and a creamery that makes its own ice cream in-store. There are sweet treats for every occasion, whether you enjoy them on-site or order their custom ice cream cakes and fresh-baked five-layer cakes online. Or, grab a sweet treat at Twisted Cookie to round out your Forest Park dining experience.


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Meet us for German Fest!


Delight in authentic German food and traditional brews, dance to the oompah of German classics, and share a great time with family and friends at the Forest Park German Fest. 


This Oktoberfest-style party fills The Grove picnic grounds at 7824 Madison Street in Forest Park, just 10 miles from the Chicago Loop, and is easily accessible by public transportation, commuter trains, or the I-290 West expressway.


Bis bald (see you soon). And make sure to share your experiences at Forest Park German Fest with friends and followers on Facebook and Instagram.