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German Apple, Beer queens visit Worthington

Women were on a journey to visit sister cities of German towns in the territory of their reign.

Anna Sauber (left) Apple Queen of the Franconian Orchard Route, and Michelle Recker (right) Beer Queen of Altmühl Franconia, visit with Chuck Nystrom, owner of Ocheda Orchard in rural Worthington, on Wednesday.
Anna Sauber (left) Apple Queen of the Franconian Orchard Route, and Michelle Recker (right) Beer Queen of Altmühl Franconia, visit with Chuck Nystrom, owner of Ocheda Orchard in rural Worthington, on Wednesday.
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WORTHINGTON — They arrived in Worthington just hours after the Crailsheim, Germany, guests left town, but Anna Sauber, Apple Queen of the Franconian Orchard Route, and Michelle Recker, Beer Queen of Altmühl Franconia, enjoyed a three-day visit to the community to mark the 75th anniversary of the Worthington-Crailsheim sister city partnership.

Sauber represents 30 communities as Apple Queen, including the city of Crailsheim. Her travel partner, Recker, represents a larger area of middle Franconia in Germany, but not Crailsheim.

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The two embarked on their journey from Germany on June 1, spending seven days in Toronto, Canada on vacation before flying to Frankenmuth, Michigan to attend the Bavarian Festival there last weekend. Frankenmuth celebrated its 60-year sister city partnership with Gunzenhausen, Bavaria, Germany, a city within both Sauber and Recker’s reign.

During their time in Frankenmuth, the women participated in the festival’s parade and assisted with the coronation of the Bavarian Festival Princess. They also visited the world’s largest Christmas store in Frankenmuth, and did a beer tasting at a local brewery.

The Frankenmuth festival was Thursday through Sunday, making it impossible to get to the Worthington-Crailsheim 75th anniversary celebration.

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“Then on Monday we visited Bay City (Michigan), a sister city of Ansbach,” shared Sauber, adding that they took a boat tour and visited City Hall there.

While Ansbach is within their region of Germany, it isn’t included in the territory of their reign. However, since it was only a 30-minute drive from Frankenmuth, they wanted to make the trek.

Late Tuesday morning, the women arrived in Worthington.

“It is the first time for us in the U.S.A.,” Sauber said.

“And also Canada,” added Recker.

Both women were crowned in 2019 for a two-year reign, but because of the global pandemic, their reign was extended to 2023. Visiting the American sister cities of some of the communities within their reign was something both opted to do on an extended summer vacation.

“We have a full-time job, but we also serve as queens,” said Recker, a preschool teacher from Eckersmühlen, Germany. Sauber has an office job (in a castle) with the government of Middle Franconia in Ansbach, and is originally from Obermogersheim, Germany.

Becoming queens

How does one become a Beer Queen? Well, for starters, Recker had to submit an application and then drum up support through an online voting system. Those who received the most votes were then invited to an interview with representatives from seven different breweries in Middle Franconia.

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“There, I had to speak about myself, answer questions about beer and questions about the region,” Recker said.

Sauber’s process to become Apple Queen was similar, in that she had to apply for the position.

Having served as an Apple Queen for 24 communities from 2010-12, she had some experience in promoting Germany’s apple industry. Now, she represents 30 communities in the Franconian Orchard Route and encourages lots of children to care about nature and the apple industry.

“Apple gum, apple chips, apple juice, apple Schnapps, apple vinegar, apple cider — you can do a lot of things with apples,” Sauber said. “It is important for us to involve children and have students visit the orchards.”

Learning about Worthington

Before their trip, the women contacted the sister cities in Frankenmuth, Bay City and Worthington seeking host families during their visits. In Worthington, they were welcomed in by the Scott and Karen Burns family, who also hosted guests from Crailsheim last week.

Their arrival in Worthington on Tuesday included a family bike ride around the community, during which the Burns talked about Worthington’s history and showed the women the Crailsheim signs and statue in Chautauqua Park.

“We love the people here and we love the country,” Sauber said. “It is so beautiful here.”

Fitting in with Sauber’s title as Apple Queen, she and Recker visited Chuck Nystrom and the Ocheda Orchard on Wednesday.

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“It was really great for me to see an orchard here, with apple butter and (coloring) books for children that explained the apple farm,” Sauber said, noting that her family has two apple trees. “But, I love our region and I love apples, so I think it is perfect — it is an honor for me to be Apple Queen.”

Sauber gifted Nystrom some apple fruit gummies from an orchard in Kressberg, Germany, and in return was gifted an Ocheda Orchard cap and some apples.

“It was very interesting for me to see how the orchard is here,” Sauber said. “He loves apples and his orchard — you can see that in his eyes.”

Also on Wednesday, the women visited the Round Lake Winery and sampled wine made with apples from the Ocheda Orchard.

Their Worthington visit also included visits to Worthington City Hall and the Nobles County Historical Society Museum, where the display was still in place on the Worthington-Crailsheim partnership.

“It was very great to see the history between Crailsheim and Worthington,” Sauber said. “The friendship between the cities is very special — very close.

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“Crailsheim loves Worthington and Worthington loves Crailsheim — that’s what we noticed,” she added. “It was very nice to see.”

Of course, the Beer Queen couldn’t visit Worthington without a stop at Forbidden Barrel Brewery, where they sampled beer with glitter, and a variety made with the purity requirements of Germany, Recker said.

Their last day in southwest Minnesota, Thursday, included a trip to the Pipestone National Monument. On Friday, their flight from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was taking them to New York City for another little vacation before returning to Germany.

“The Apple Queen flies to the Big Apple,” joked Recker.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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