German Day Association
The German Day Association was founded in 1920 by dedicated Germans wishing to promote the usage and continuance of the German language, customs and songs in Chicago. At that time the Association became the umbrella organization for all of the German Organizations under the name of the United German American Societies of Greater Chicago.
German-American Day is an annual celebration of German heritage. All groups involved have a chance to show their part in the upkeep of our traditions. The festival helps fund the continued education of our youth and culture, and we continue to work hard to keep such traditions alive. The location of the German-American Day celebration has changed several times over the years, from Riverview Park, Saint Paul Woods, Navy Pier, Schwaben Center, and Grant Park to Lincoln Square for the last 25 years.
The German Day Association is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization located in Chicago. In addition to the 3-day German-American Day, Oktoberfest and Steuben Parade, the Association sponsors the German Unity Day Commemoration in the Fall at St. Benedict Church in Chicago. All German singing societies perform, many wearing the costumes of their native communities. The event opens up with the presentation of the flags of the member societies. Admission is free.
The Steuben Parade honors Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a German military man who volunteered his services to Gen. George Washington, leader of the revolutionary army of the American colonies. Von Steuben converted the colonial army, mostly farmers and tradesmen, into a disciplined fighting force, instilling in them much needed inspiration, confidence and competence.
The parade is sponsored by the United German American Societies of Greater Chicago and includes marchers in ethnic costumes, floats, bands and members from many local German American organizations.
Chicago’s first parade took place in September, 1965. Every segment of the German American Community was represented: singers, dancers, social clubs, sport clubs, fraternal orders, folk groups and Mardi Gras societies. Today we do our best to continue this wonderful annual tradition. It is a self-sustaining parade, paid for in its entirety by those Americans of German ancestry who participate in it.
The annual Steuben Parade is the German American Event of the year, which steps off at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The parade begins at 4000 N. Lincoln Ave. traveling to Wilson Avenue and north on Western Ave. The parade’s reviewing stand is located at Leland and Western avenues. Hundreds of participants march, dance, play music or ride the many beautiful floats and make their way on Lincoln Ave, through the Lincoln Square neighborhood, the heart of Chicago’s German-American Community and end in the Festival area to join the festivities.
Friedrich Von Steuben
Friedrich Von Steuben was born in Magdeburg, Germany. He attended Jesuit schools in Breslau, entered the Prussian army’s officer corps, and served in the Seven Years War. He then joined Frederick the Great’s military staff. Later, he was appointed chamberlain to the Prussian court of Hohenzollern Hechingen. In 1777, Von Steuben went to Paris to meet America’s Ambassador to France Benjamin Franklin to offer them his military services. The Continental Congress, much impressed by Von Steuben’s title and his refusal to accept any salary while in service, immediately sent him to George Washington at Valley Forge.
Von Steuben had an illustrious military career and with his expertise joined in the war efforts in the American colonies. Von Steuben was one of Washington’s most trusted generals. A masterful military tactician, he trained countless American regiments — despite not speaking any English and having to rely on an interpreter. He was an early German-American who helped George Washington lead his troops to victory during the Revolutionary War. He was not only a war hero, but our hero.
Von Steuben taught us that you can go to a country with very little and achieve great things through skill and determination. For this reason we honor him with our parade.