Celebrating German Karneval in America: GAMGA Helau!

We remember:
Karneval Fun before COVID-19

In 2019, Karneval Fans from as far away as Berlin and Cologne at the GAMGA Gala in Las Vegas

The “Dreigestirn” from Bergheim, Germany

For more than 30 years, the annual gala of the German-American Mardi Gras Association (GAMGA) has attracted German Karneval fans from all parts of the U.S. and Canada, all determined to keep the fun and colorful tradition of German-style Karneval alive. In 2019, the legendary Rio Hotel & Casino served as the venue for the 2-day event where the Californian “Karnevalsjecken” were joined by delegations from Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, Ohio, Wisconsin, Canada, and Germany!

After the traditional GAMGA Board Meeting and GAMGA Delegates Meeting, the first event, the Costume Ball, kicked off the GAMGA weekend in style on January 18.


More than 700 GAMGA guests in very creative and colorful costumes had gathered and cheered GAMGA President Holger Claus, the GAMGA Board and GAMGA Elferrat  who crowned this year’s GAMGA Prince and Princess, “Seine Tollität Prinz Karl I und Ihre Lieblichkeit Prinzessin Tina I.” – both members of the San Diego Karneval Group. (Photo on the right)

As happens every year, the dance shows presented by the various clubs, especially their youth groups, were spectacular. First-time performers were members of the Los Angeles Turners Youth Dance Group, a recently formed group of six girls between the age of 5 and 12. After only 3 months of practice with their trainers Delia, Irma Hast and myself, these young and enthusiastic dancers awed the audience with their take on “Viva Colonia.” The event was a great inspiration to them since they had the chance to watch experienced dancers from the Phoenix Club Youth Dance Group who celebrates their 50th anniversary this year, and the almost professional dancers of the Anaheim Karnevalsgesellschaft as well as the Canadian dancers of the Karneval Groups from Sarnia and Edmonton.

The second evening, it was time for the festive and traditional “Prunksitzung” (Pomp Session) when all Karneval royals – die Karneval Prinzenpaare –  in their exquisite robes and richly adorned Karneval hats march in, surrounded by their “subjects,” all dressed in the official (and often elaborate) attire of their organization, as it is the tradition of the Rhenish Karneval. Unfortunately, the GAMGA member club “Die Narren von Neu-Ulm” who celebrated and safeguard the traditions of the “Allemannische Fastnacht”, which is celebrated in the southern part of Germany and Switzerland, did not attend this year. Throughout the evening, the guests flocked to the large dance floor and danced enthusiastically to the music of “Bluebirds,” the popular show band from Southern California.

Time flies when you have a good time, and soon Las Vegas could take a deep breath of relief and see the “Karnevalsjecken” leave for their home turf to revel in more Karneval fun until Ash Wednesday, the end of the ‘Fifth Season.’ Looking at the many and growing youth dance groups at the GAMGA Gala who do not only learn some traditional German dances but also stay in touch with their heritage and the German language by becoming familiar with the fun German Karnveal songs, I realized once again what an important contribution the GAMGA Gala and all Karneval Groups throughout the year fulfill with regards to keeping German culture alive in America.  –  GW/Petra Schurmann

The German-American Mardi-Gras Association (GAMGA) represents most of the German-American Karneval Clubs in the U.S.A., as well as some in Canada. The organization was founded in 1985 on the West Coast with the goal to promote German Karneval traditions in both the USA and Canada. The organization has more than 20 member clubs and is based on volunteer work.

For more information visit www.gamga.org


German Karneval Connections in Your Neighbourhood


Ludwig’s German Table Restaurant
261 N. 2nd Street San Jose, CA 9511

Anaheim Karnevalsgesellschaft
Information: www.anaheimkg.com



Bewitching “Weiberfasching” at the American German Club of the Palm Beaches



Information: www.chicagoprinz.com


New York

Kölner Karneval at “Zum Schneider”


Information: www.rheinischervereinofmilwaukee.com


For all regions check www.gamga.org/karneval-functions


All photos: Courtesy of GAMGA

Caption The GAMGA Board:
Kristen Sorensen (Secretary), Jody Spaziano (Director), Holger Claus (President), Kurt Hauptmann (Vice President), Joyce Drenckhahn (Treasurer), Lana Fauskin (Director)