The History of Rheinfest
In the late 1990's, a group of community-minded individuals had a collective vision for the future of Saint Paul. That vision was to create a high quality, family-friendly Germanic festival that would portray aspects of Germanic culture other than the traditional Oktoberfest, with which most Americans are familiar. Tom Schock, Carol Bufton, Andy Staab and Walter Eisner (the original Board of Directors) formed a non-profit organization to produce a festival called "Rheinfest on the Mississippi."
In mid-September 1999, the inaugural Rheinfest took place in the Landmark Center and on 7th Place in downtown Saint Paul with over 5,000 in attendance. From this original idea, Rheinfest grew to become the cultural showcase for Saint Paul's newest Sister City relationship, Neuss, Germany. In the coming years, musicians, artists and dignataries came to Rheinfest from the picturesque Rhein River town of Neuss. The Rheinfest participated in the grand Reopening of Harriet Island earlier this decade.
Following the acquisition of Rheinfest, Inc. by the German-American Heritage Foundation, Inc. (GAHF), Bruce Larson, a philanthropic visionary and President of GAHF, stepped in to bring new life to the festival. He had always been enamored with the vision and mission behind the Rheinfest and wished to revive its "spirit". He transformed Rheinfest from an outdoor festival on the Mississippi into a riverboat cruise with exquisite food, beverages and entertainment. The Rheinfest festival was joined with other ethnic elements, including Mercedes Car Show and an elegant Viennese Ball, to form what has now become the "Saint Paul Sommerfest." Although Sommerfest weekend is still an ongoing success, the original "Rheinfest" was missed among patrons and organizers.
Soon thereafter, Tom Schock and Andy Staab came together again with Bruce Larson, Dea Johnson and Darrel Schenk to recreate Rheinfest - A Wine Festival on the Mississippi.