NEW ULM– The kick-off for Bavarian Blast’s weekend festivities featured Minnesota Music Hall of Famer Mollie B, a stein holding contest, and Optimist Club cheese curds.
The KNUJ Polka Hall ran from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and featured two two-hour shows from Makel’s Fisherman and the Wendinger Band. Schell’s Tent featured two two-hour shows from the Concord Singers, Alpensterne, the Alex Meixner Band, and Squeezebox with Mollie B from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
This year marks the ninth Mollie B, aka Mollie Busta, has performed at Bavarian Blast. Outside of a year where she traveled in Europe and the year the festival was canceled due to COVID, she has not missed a Blast since she started.
“It’s always the people,” Busta said when asked why she comes back year after year. “Everywhere I go, it’s the people. I love to perform for the people. They’re appreciative and they enjoy what we do.”
Busta said her favorite thing to do when performing is taking her microphone and running to different audience members. “This audience is probably better than any other audience as far as their response and how I get them involved,” she said.
Busta enjoys several elements of what Bavarian Blast brings to the people of New Ulm.
“I like the fact that when it comes to music there’s such a wide variety,” she said. Like here we got the German and entertaining music during the day with a small dance floor for people to dance on. You have the polka music in the [KNUJ] building where people can dance nonstop all day. And then of course in the evening something different [in Schell’s Tent].”
On Saturday evening, that something different was the stein holding contest. From 7-8 p.m. contests for men and women tested arm strength to see who could hold a stein full of water with one outstretched arm.
The winner of the women’s competition was Paula Thomas from New Ulm. She won with a time of two minutes and forty seconds. The last time she competed was three years ago, where she placed second. She said winning after having come up short the last time she competed felt awesome. She credited her work on ambulances with building the strength necessary to win the competition.
On the men’s side Jeff Kelley brought home the win. His winning time was six minutes and thirty-two seconds. He held his stein out even after he was the last man standing, looking to see how long of a time he could get.
“It feels good [to have won],” Kelley said. “I’ve been practicing a bit. I’ve been stein holding since last October after I won at Schell’s and I was looking for some competition.”
Kelley gained his skill from both practice and his occupation. He trains for stein holding using dumbbells and also gains strength from his job as a plumbing and heating contractor. Kelley encourages everyone to give stein holding a try to have some fun. Each winner won 20 tokens for Bavarian Blast.
The Optimist Club brought back their cheese curds for another year of fundrasing and service. Member Ellie Sveine said encouragement from Blast-goers has made the Club a recurring presence.
“People say they’re the best cheese curds they’ve ever had,” Sveine said. “It is a great fundraiser for our group and we’ve been [having fun] doing it.
Sveine said the group brought ten 40-pound boxes of cheese curds for the event, which totals up to 400 pounds. The group will be bringing one thousand pounds to the Brown County Free Fair coming up in August.
“We love it, it’s what keeps us going,” Sveine said when asked about the Optimist Club being a yearly staple at Bavarian Blast. “We built the trailer for it. We used to just have a table and a tent. We’ve invested a lot of money into our trailer, and we love coming back every year.”
The day ended with two classic cover bands. Disco Kingz brought the audience back to 1977 for some classic disco from 8-10 p.m. and The Hype provided classic rock hits from 10-12 p.m.