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Willkommen to the Club

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In our continuing Diversity Series, we get to know Casselberry’s German-American social club, which has been celebrating and sharing German culture throughout Central Florida for more than 50 years

The German American Society of Central Florida (GASOCF) has served as the area’s largest nonprofit German-American social club for decades, but don’t worry, you by no means need to have German roots to become a member or to simply enjoy all the organization has to offer.

“Our members come from all different backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common: a love for German culture and an interest in our traditions,” says Ed Mullis, club president, who joined more than 25 years ago. Ed met his wife while serving in the Army in Germany, and they joined the club together to stay close to her German heritage. “During normal circumstances, we have lots of fantastic events open to the public including major community festivals and educational programs. We’ve continued to host events, but they’re not at our usual capacity.”

It’s no surprise that the pandemic has altered many of the organization’s plans and put a damper on its event programming schedule, a major source of fundraising for the club, but the GASOCF is learning to adapt and continues to host events while adhering to social-distancing guidelines. Devoted members are working hard to find creative ways to fundraise and also keep the club’s beautiful building in Casselberry up and running. Designed with a distinct German-Austrian aesthetic, the space was architected by a club member and is built to host events big and small. It features a grand dance floor and stage, a full kitchen and bar, and a Biergarten. 

Many in the Central Florida community are familiar with the GASOCF’s Oktoberfest in the fall, its largest fundraiser featuring the very best in German culture. Meanwhile, the upcoming springtime Germanfest in April will bring you as close to Munich as you can get without a plane ticket, says Ed.

“We try to be as authentic as possible,” Ed explains. “All our German beers are imported, our bratwursts are handmade and come from New York, and sometimes we go through as many as 1,000 pounds of potatoes at our big events to make German favorites like potato pancakes, schnitzels, and other traditional food. Then we have special German bands and other entertainers who come out. It’s a great time.”

If you’re interested in taking your love for German culture to the next level, the GASOCF also features affiliate clubs and other organizations listed on its website for activities such as German dancing. The clubs meet and practice at the Casselberry building. Many of these groups go on to perform at different festivities dressed in traditional Bavarian clothing including lederhosen and dirndl, making the audience feel like they are in Germany. No experience is necessary to join any of the clubs.

The Schuhplattler Gruppe Alpenrose, for example, began at the GASOCF in 1980. Members share a genuine love for Alpine traditions, customs, and folk dances and perform throughout the state. Likewise, the Orlando Trachtenverein Gruppe provides traditional German, Bavarian, and Austrian entertainment. Other established clubs include the Central Florida Accordion Club, the Razzle Dazzle Dance Group for ladies over 50, and the Karneval Gesellschaft Rot Club, which organizes events during Germany’s Karneval Season.

“Our German-American club is really unique, and there is so much great camaraderie that comes with being a part of it,”says Ed. “We’ve been in the community for a long time, and we’re hoping to see the younger generation get involved with us and continue our traditions and customs. It’s been a really tough year for social nonprofit organizations like ours across the world, but we’re hoping this year is much better than the last.”

Whether you’re looking for German events, dancing, or just want to learn more about Germanic culture and traditions, check out the GASOCF for a chance to mingle and connect with other members. Member benefits include quarterly meetings and discounted rates to dinner dances, drinks, and events. Many events are also open to the public. GermanFest 2021 is scheduled for Saturday, April 17.

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