Schuhplattler und Gebirgstrachten Verein “Washingtonia” was founded in 1923 by several friends who emigrated to the Washington, D.C. area from Bavaria. Their performance of their native Schuhplattler dances delighted others for whom they danced, and, in time, inspired others to join in the club’s activities. Among their first public appearances was a performance for the benefit of the Relief for German and Austrian Children. Soon the group, which first consisted only of men, was joined by young ladies, and from 1923 until 1932 the dance group, which was then known as The Schuhplattler Club Edelweiss, performed at many social benefit events. After one such show during the Depression, Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt spontaneously rose and shook hands with each one of the dancers.
On January 7, 1933 the group organized its first dance, called “Heimatabend”, an evening reminiscent of their homeland, at the Knights of Columbus Hall on 10th Street in Washington, D.C. It was a big success, and was followed by many years of dancing and camaraderie. As with most German organizations, World War II brought our group’s activities to a standstill. But after the war, in October 1946, Max Blob, owner of Blob’s Park Bavarian Biergarten in Jessup, Maryland gathered the Schuhplattler dancers to perform there. The postwar years brought a revival of the German culture, and many new people joined the group.
In 1960 the group incorporated under its new name, Schuhplattler und Gebirgstrachten Verein Washingtonia, Inc. The next year Washingtonia dancers carried the banner of the District of Columbia in the Oktoberfest Parade in Munich, Germany.
Active in the Washington area’s German community, our group was instrumental as a founding member of the Association of German-American Societies of Greater Washington (AGAS). We also fully supported the Concord Club (a Washington-based group for people with German heritage) and the Washington Sangerbund (a German singing group that recently celebrated its 150th anniversary) in their various endeavors.
Uniting with several other Schuhplattler groups in the early and mid-1960s we actively engaged in forming the Gauverband Nordamerika, Inc. (an umbrella organization for Bavarian dance clubs in the U.S. and Canada) and provided the organization with its first President and Historian. Since then, members of our group have attended every Gaufest (held every other summer), and had the honor of hosting the 4th Gaufest here in Washington, DC in 1973. By all reports, it was a resounding success despite the five consecutive days of unrelenting rain.
Washingtonia has performed for a wide variety of audiences in the United States and abroad. The club performed in the East Room of the White House in 1965 for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s White House staff Christmas party. The group has represented the District of Columbia at the Munich Oktoberfest Parade in 1961, 1978, and 1981, and traveled to Bavarian in 1983 and 1993 to celebrate anniversaries of two dance groups in Germany. On July 20th 1996 we carried the flag of the Federal Republic of Germany at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. Other performances have included the Smithsonian Institution, country clubs, service clubs, schools, charity groups, and local German May Festivals and Oktoberfests. The club today possesses this same common love of Bavarian traditional dancing and is continuously seeking opportunities to share its Bavarian heritage with others.