As Deutsches Haus prepares for this year’s annual Oktoberfest in Kenner, the new director of the New Orleans-based German cultural organization says she has her eye set on the longer-term goal of returning to Mid-City.
Marketing executive Theresa Crosby was chosen as the first-ever executive director of Deutsches Haus last month and will be overseeing the organization’s regular operations. Part of that, Crosby said, includes the using the increasingly popular Oktoberfest as a fundraising platform for the organization’s new home at 1700 Moss Street in Mid-City.
“Now that we’re making a profit … we need to step up fundraising. That way, our dream of returning home to New Orleans becomes a reality,” Crosby said.
Crosby — who has previous experience on the boards of Habitat for Humanity and as co-founder of Dress for Success New Orleans — said that the opening of new Deutsches Haus on Moss Street is slated for 2017 if the fundraising goal is achieved.Her membership has confidence that she’s the one for the job.
“She’s got the right amount of marketing, sales, fundraising and non-profit experience to help us move forward and raise the millions we need to build our ‘New Haus,'” Keith Oldendorf, president of the Deutsches Haus Board of Directors, said in a statement about her hiring.
The new Deutsches Haus location on Moss Street was approved by city officials in the summer of 2014 (despite a brief question by city planners as to whether the design by architectural firm Mathes Brierre was “too Germanic”). The 16,000-square-foot facility will include a multi-purpose room and classrooms, and extensive site work will include new sidewalk paving, new landscaping and 200 parking spaces, the application states. The Moss Street site, which once housed the NOPD Third District station, remains a vacant lot for now, but city permits show that a permit application for new construction there was being reviewed by inspectors as recently as September.
The organization rebuilt its former site at 200 South Galvez Street after Hurricane Katrina in time for Oktoberfest 2006, but right afterward, construction plans for the University Medical Center forced the Deutsches Haus to find a new home, its temporary site for the past six years on Ridgewood Drive in Metairie.
According to the film This Haus of Memories (2012) directed by Dr. Justin Nystrom, professor of history at Loyola University of New Orleans, co-director of the Center of Study for New Orleans, and director of Documentary & Oral History Studio, Deutsches Haus had been located on its original Galvez Street site in Mid-City for about 80 years before the storm hit the city.
Nystrom said that the location of a permanent home for the organization was a big topic when he made the film a few years ago.
“One of the big questions that they had was ‘Is Deutsches Haus going to remain in New Orleans proper or was it going to end up in Jefferson Parish,’ which is where they are temporarily located now,” Nystrom said, noting that it provided the organization’s members a central location to meet. “It was important to them that they return to Mid-City not just for historical reasons, but because it truly was central.”
Steve Mardon, president of the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association, said that neighbors are also excited for the new facility.
“As far as I know, most residents support the construction and are looking forward to it opening,” Mardon said.
Nystrom said that he thinks the new facility also shows Deutsches Haus’ dedication to redeveloping the city.
“I think it’s great for the city because it shows that there is a little diversity to the gentrification,” Dr. Nystrom said.
In the meantime, Crosby said that Kenner will be hosting the festival for the fourth time, until the new facility is up and running.
“The City of Kenner is simply our gracious host town of our largest event, till we return to New Orleans,” Crosby said.
The festival will be held each Friday and Saturday from Oct. 9 through Oct. 24. The festival will open at 6 p.m. with the tradition of Kenner Mayor Michael S. Yenni tapping the first beer keg.
That Saturday, Oct. 10, an Oktoberfest 5K Run/Walk will start at 5 p.m. The next weekend on Oct. 24, the annual Dachshund Dash will begin at 3:45 p.m.
Each day of the festival will feature German-style food, music and 16 different German beers. A Kid’s Korner will be also be held each day and will feature arts and grafts, games, story-telling and puppet shows, and face painting.
German music group performances will include Yodel-Blitz, featuring yodeling and polka dancing, Das Ist Lustig, The Bräts, Prost, Dixie Hofkapelle and Der Guten Tag Hop Cloppers. New additions to the festival performances include the 610 Stompers and Disco Amigos, and new food provided by St. James Cheese Company in Uptown, and a new local company, ASAP Pretzels.
The festival will be open on Fridays at 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. during the festival’s three weekends, with an admission of $6. (More information can be found at http://www.oktoberfestnola.com/)
Nystrom, the historian, said he looks forward the great atmosphere of the festival every year, but that he, too, remains personally excited for the organization’s return to New Orleans in a new building on the banks of Bayou St. John.
“It’s a great location,” Dr. Nystrom said. “I can’t think of a more beautiful place for a biergarten.”