Maureen Steinbock was the first generation of her family to be born in the United States.
Her father, born in Kamenka, Russia, was transported to Germany and then the U.S. before starting a family with Marcella Domme, who founded the Sacred Heart Catholic Parish’s Germanfest.
Through the years, things have changed — the parish merged with St. Joseph’s, new priests arrived, bands came and went. But one thing has remained consistent — the recipes Domme passed on to her daughter for the annual festival.
Steinbock took over the planning for Germanfest in 1974 and retired last year. With her protegees learning the ropes, Steinbock still stands by vigilantly to assist.
“This is my parish, and I’m going to stay here,” Steinbock said, “and I’m determined that it’s going to succeed.”
Lisa Steinbock and JoAn Domme are working to take over the festivities, but Steinbock reassures them she won’t leave before they are ready.
“I’m going to try to make it out to the grounds this year,” Steinbock said. “It’s time that I got out.”
Beginning June 3, Sacred Heart-St. Joseph’s will begin its two-day festival at the parish, 312 N.E. Freeman, to celebrate German heritage. As one of the only Germanfests in the area, Steinbock said, people come from all over to eat their famous cuisine.
Popular dishes include krautstrudel, a savory blend of hamburger and cooked cabbage in a pastry; sauerbraten, tender beef marinated in wine; and rivvel kuchen, or German coffee cake.
Steinbock said it isn’t uncommon for a line to form two hours before Sunday’s lunch with people clamoring for sauerbraten, which isn’t available at Saturday’s dinner.
“Saturday it’s more the brats and the German sausage, German potato salad, German dumplings, your noodles, that kind of thing, and your grebble and the chocolate cake, things like that,” she said. “But then on Sunday it’s more of a full-blown dinner. We have the sauerbraten, we have the pork and kraut, we have the fried chicken with the mashed potatoes and the gravy.
“We still have the German potato salad and the noodles, because they’re popular Saturday and Sunday, so we still do all of that.”
Of concern to this year’s Germanfest is construction equipment north of the parish on N.E. Seward. The roadwork affected turnout for the Lenten fish fry, Steinbock said.
“We’re real anxious this year because we just finished the basement, we just painted it, and we just finished tiling the church hall upstairs, so we just really want to celebrate this year, and we’re just worried that construction’s going to kill us,” she said.
Mark Schreiner, engineer and project manager for the city of Topeka, said the city expects N.E. Seward will have all but the surface lift — the top 2 inches of asphalt — placed by the time Germanfest begins.
“Areas outside of the construction zone will be accessible to the public with the best vehicle access being from the South,” he said in an email. “Staff is working with Germanfest organizers to ensure adequate access.”
All sidewalks, driveways and handicap-accessible ramps between N.E. Grattan and N.E. Rowley will be completed and open on both sides of N.E. Seward, Schreiner said.
In addition to the Saturday dinner and Sunday lunch, other attractions include an auction, bingo, raffle for a 2016 Toyota Corolla S, the 6th annual Brat Trot 5K run/walk and a polka dance for which the Chardon Polka Band will perform for the first time.
“I just love it because of the camaraderie and the fun you have working with the different people,” Steinbock said. “I mean, we work really really hard, but we enjoy playing too — and it’s just fun. You make it fun.”