Backed by The Village Idiots band, Mayor Gene Warnecke (left front) presented Glandorf Germany VIce Mayor Hubert Pohler with a key to the village. (Photo submitted)
Backed by The Village Idiots band, Mayor Gene Warnecke (left front) presented Glandorf Germany VIce Mayor Hubert Pohler with a key to the village. (Photo submitted)

GLANDORF — At 7 p.m. on June 25, a charter bus, pursued by village vehicles with lights flashing, pulled up in front of Glandorf Village Hall. No one in the village seemed alarmed, however. In fact, residents turned out along the bus route and in and around the municipal building, full smiles in place and arms outstretched as 54 visitors from Glandorf, Germany strode down the bus steps.

Glandorf, Germany’s Vice Mayor Hubert Pohler presented Glandorf, Ohio Mayor Gene Warnecke with a commemorative book. In turn, Warnecke presented Pohler with a key to the Putnam County village. The band, The Village Idiots, played and food and beverages were consumed shortly thereafter.

According to Warnecke, many families still trace their roots back to Glandorf, Germany. In 1975, a group of local residents, with the encouragement of Pastor Raymond Seifert, of St. John the Baptist Church, traveled to Germany to reconnect family ties. For almost 40 years there has been a unique relationship between the two communities that are physically half a world apart.

The last exchange was made three years ago when a group from the Ohio village traveled to Germany. This year, the group was led by Pohler. The 2014 trip was his ninth visit to Putnam County; his first was in 1976 when the partnership was formed. Most of the people who came with Pohler on this trip have not been here.

Although he acknowledged differences between the towns— for instance, lot sizes are much bigger here—he said the similarities are dominant.

For instance, Germans and Americans share an interest in soccer, one which was emphasized on Saturday when local resident Beth Hempfling and her family hosted a World Cup viewing.

“Was a fun party and the Germans were very happy to win 1-0,” said Hempfling.

The Hempflings opened their home not only for the party but also for visitors to stay in during the visit. Beth said she and her husband had always wanted a son to join their four daughters, a boy they would have named Andy. Ironically, from Wednesday to Sunday, 21-year-old Andreas Toppmoller was part of their family.

Toppmoller and the other German guests were able to walk the Putnam County Fair while stateside. On Saturday, locals were invited to Glandorf Elementary School to listen to stories recited in the Low German dialect.

“This was the common language that was spoken by our German ancestors when they immigrated to the United States in the early 1800s,” said Warnecke. “Although Low German is no longer commonly spoken in Germany or the U.S., there is a strong desire to preserve this once common language.”

The book that Pohler presented contained stories in Low German with an English translation for future generations.

“Now it’s Glandorf, Ohio’s turn to visit,” said Pohler. “We’ll be prepared. The invitation is there.”