It was an Austrian Christmas at Schweiger Ranch on Dec. 4 as the historic site hosted a festival that aimed to spotlight the property's heritage and bring the community together.
The fifth annual event boasted authentic Austrian and German food and music, complete with bratwursts and pretzels. People shopped vendors' stands in between visits with Santa's reindeer and Santa himself.
About halfway through the day, 1,200 people had already filtered through the event. Schweiger Ranch Foundation board president Keith Simon said it was good to be back after the ranch hosted a drive-thru version of the festival in 2020 during the pandemic.
The event has become well-attended by members of the local Austrian and German community, Simon said, who often sit front row during while a live band plays and sing to the songs.
“People have really come to love this event,” he said. “I'm just so pleased we were able to do it. We try to expand it a little every year.”
Fellow board member Darryl Jones worked for the site's landowner before the ranch became a nonprofit. For roughly 10 years he helped in establishing its 501(c)(3), preserving the site's 38 acres and supporting a restoration project of the property's buildings. Jones said the goal was to transform the property into a community amenity.
The foundation will probably try to keep expanding the Christmas festival in years to come, he said, as well as the site.
“It's so amazing to see that dream and that vision realized,” he said. “It really almost creates this emotional response because there's a connection to how the project started.”
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