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 Karneval – aka The Fifth Season – alive.
By Petra Schürmann
Since 2014, Tuscany Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas has been the venue for the two-day event. This year, the North American “Karnevalsjecken” were even joined by delegations from Berlin, Reutlingen and Neuss!
The GAMGA weekend kicked off on January 13 with a GAMGA Board Meeting, followed by the GAMGA Delegates Meeting, and culminated with the first gala event – The Costume Ball.
Close to 1,000 GAMGA guests cheered the thunderous opening presented by the “Chicago Fanfaren,”a marching brass band
from the Windy City, followed by the welcoming address of former GAMGA President Siggi Schuster and capped off with the grand entrance of the GAMGA Board, who crowned this year’s GAMGA Prince and Princess, “Seine Tollitaet Prinz Matthew I. und Ihre Lieblichkeit Prinzessin Michelle I.” – both members of the Las Vegas Vagabonds.
As happens every year, the dance shows presented by the various clubs, especially their youth groups, were spectacular, as were some members’ truly unique costume creations.
Everyone swayed and shashayed over the large dance floor to the music of “Bluebirds,” the popular show band from Southern California known for its broad repertoire of German and American favorites.
Despite celebrating almost through the night, many GAMGA guests gathered the next morning for various workshops designed to teach newcomers the roots of German Karneval and to refresh the memories
of the organization’s more seasoned members. Then it was time for the festive “Prunksitzung” (Pomp Session).
This has been always my favorite since it is quite a show, as the Karneval royals in their exquisite robes and richly adorned Karneval hats are surrounded by their “subjects,” all dressed in the official (and often elaborate) attire of their organization. While most of the GAMGA members’ clubs follow the Rhenish Karneval tradition, some clubs like “Die Narren von Neu-Ulm” show off typical costumes representing the “Allemannische Fastnacht” celebrated in the southern part of Germany and Switzerland.
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. A bittersweet moment occurred for Walter Luebke, whose GAMGA presidency comes to an end on April 29. The personable and soft-spoken businessman from Fullerton, California, has successfully lead North America’s largest Karneval organization for many years.
Walter, “Alaaf,” Walter “Helau,” and many thanks for your leadership. – Kurt Hauptmann contributed to this article.
Next GAMGA Gala: January 5 & 6, 2018.
For more information visit www.gamga.org
All photos: Courtesy of Tom Cantwell.