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Crailsheim visitors enjoy potluck, music

Audience members applaud the Worthington City Band during their performance Wednesday night in the Worthington High School cafeteria. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- The universal languages of music and food combined to make a congenial Wednesday evening in the Worthington High School (WHS) cafeteria for the contingent of nearly 50 visitors from Crailsheim, Germany.

Joined by their host families and members of the "Amazing" Worthington City Band, the German guests enjoyed a bountiful buffet featuring grilled pork loin (courtesy of JBS) and numerous homemade dishes -- coleslaw, scalloped potatoes, salads, fruit and plenty of dessert options, among other tasty offerings -- before being treated to the municipal band's seasonal music debut.

"It's quite an honor to play for the visiting Crailsheim delegation, and to renew some of the friendships that were made during our city band's tour to Crailsheim in July 2011," said Jon Loy, director of the "Amazing" Worthington City Band since 2008.

Two beaming mayors--Alan Oberloh of Worthington and Rudolf Michl of Crailsheim--reveled in the air of friendship and community that pervaded the gathering.

"I can't take a lot of credit for this," protested Oberloh, instead pointing to the local committee of Darlene Macklin, Janice Berger, Janice Oberloh, Ashley Goettig and Judy Eykyn for the effort that coordinated the week's activities and events for Worthington's sister city friends.

"The idea behind tonight was to bring the host families and guests together for a meal and some entertainment," said Berger.

"We've loved having our guests," said James Jenson, whose family is playing host this week to three guests, including 17-year-old Alicia Hanselmann and her 14-year-old brother, Tom. "The kids have been playing wiffle ball, pool, ping pong and kickball."

With a wide grin, Alicia Hanselmann offered evidence of her active American stay.

"See? Only my right shoe is dirty from the kickball," she explained.

WHS sophomore Jaron Sternke, who is slated to be Worthington's 2013-14 exchange student representative in Crailsheim, welcomed the face-to-face meeting with some of the people he'll live amidst in the coming year.

"I talked to Mayor Michl for about two hours earlier," said Sternke. "It's a great opportunity, and he is a really nice guy."

When it was his turn to address the crowd, Michl called Mayor Oberloh and his wife "One cool couple," saying he and his wife, Eva-Maria, shared the Oberlohs' interests in cars and motorcycles.

And although the "Amazing" Worthington City Band had only held two practices so far this spring, the nearly 70-member ensemble -- a bumper crop number of instrumentalists -- played five numbers, including a symphonic arrangement of "Home on the Range" and the ever popular "Rock Around the Clock" and "Beer Barrel Polka."

The Great Plains String Quartet also performed three musical selections, including the Hornpipe from Handel's "Water Music," which violinist Melanie Loy introduced as "royal music for our royal German guests."

Following Monday's 11 a.m. appearance at the local Memorial Day ceremony in Chautauqua Park, the city band will begin its regular summer schedule of concerts on June 5 at 7:30 p.m., with concerts set for each subsequent Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. through July 24 --and also on the Fourth of July.

"We'll do a 'Christmas in July' concert this year, like we did a couple of seasons ago, and we'll have one program of all marches," noted Loy. "There are a lot of fresh faces scheduled for intermission entertainment, too."

One "fresh face" in this year's city band ranks is that of Warren Wass, a baritone player who logged 17 years with the band prior to 1992 and is resuming his place in the brass section after a 21-year hiatus.

"My lips hurt," deadpanned Wass. "A lot of the music--and some of the people--are the same as when I used to play. I'm back home."

Home, indeed. Four of Wass's six children are also current members of the city band, as is his wife, Jan, a clarinetist.

"We have a special attachment to the city band because it's where Warren and I reconnected in the summer of 1981, and now we get to share it with our kids, too," said Jan Wass. "And I love playing outside at the park in the summer."

The Wasses have a connection with Crailsheim, as well, given that several Wass family members traveled to Germany in July 2011 with the city band.

"I'm of German heritage, besides, and had always wanted to go, so it was a super opportunity," Jan Wass related. "The Crailsheim people were very welcoming, and we felt like part of the family. They were just fabulous."

That's the way the Worthington hosts hope this week's German guests will feel after spending time touring the area and enjoying some of the town's special sites, including Memorial Auditorium, the Historic Dayton House and surrounding farms.

"Tomorrow afternoon, we're giving them a little 'Taste of Minnesota' at Centennial Park," revealed Macklin. "The Southwest Minnesota Fishing Club will serve them pheasant, walleye, deer and shredded turkey, and there will also be wild rice, blueberry muffins and coleslaw.

"It's so they can get some real Minnesota flavor to experience."

And when they leave Friday morning for the next leg of their United States tour, the Crailsheim contingent may be echoing the sentiments expressed by Michl in his brief remarks.

"These visits always seem too short," said Michl. "We thank you all, and we thank the host families that have welcomed us with open arms."

The "Amazing" Worthington City Band rehearses Mondays at 7 p.m. in the Worthington High School band room, with regular summer concerts held on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. in Chautauqua Park from June 5-July 24. The band will also appear as part of the Memorial Day ceremony at Chautauqua Park on Monday at 11 a.m.