FRANKENMUTH – This year, Michigan’s Little Bavaria experienced some needed improvements – such as a new Cheese Haus – saw the rise of four hometown musicians who rocked the music world, and watched a former track star win a silver medal in Winter Olympics.
Here is a recap of some Frankenmuth-related stories highlighted by The Advertiser in 2018.
Cheese Haus celebrates grand opening
Part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus was the construction of its new location, which opened in August.
“Our big thing is the experience,” Martha Zehnder Kaczynski, vice president and fourth-generation owner of the Bavarian Inn, said prior to the grand opening in November. “This isn’t a grocery store. You can see the cheese being made in the back of the store and we enjoy providing a variety of great cheese selections for our guests.”
To accommodate more visitors, the Cheese Haus launched an expansion project earlier this year from its former 2,700-square-foot building to its new location.
The store offers more room for product sales and demonstrations. A second-floor tasting room/hospitality area will be able to accommodate groups, motor coach travelers and special events when it is completed in 2019.
In July, a 2,000-pound, 23-foot-high copper Zwiebelturm – German for onion dome – was hoisted to the top of the new 74-foot Cheese Haus Figurinespiel Tower, which tells an animated story about how popular cheeses are made from around the world.
The adventures of Greta Van Fleet
This year was quite the thrill ride for Frankenmuth’s own Greta Van Fleet. Most recently, the band made headlines after it was announced in December it was nominated for four Grammy Awards.
Many performances after its first paid gigs at Vassar’s Cork Pine Eatery & Saloon, the band released its debut studio album – “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” – in October.
The album reached the top of Billboard’s Top 200 Albums Chart. It also took the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums and Rock Consumption charts and No. 3 on Billboard’s Top 200 Chart.
Greta Van Fleet formed in 2012 and consists of four young musicians from Frankenmuth – twin brothers Josh and Jake Kiszka, younger brother Sam Kiszka and longtime family friend Danny Wagner. All four graduated from Frankenmuth High School within the last four years.
The group’s 2018 U.S. tour sold out nine headline shows in New York City, Detroit and Chicago in September. Also, all 44 of its headline concerts this year sold out in advance.
Its 2019, the “March of the Peaceful Army” world tour begins Jan. 21 in Japan.
Gateway arch gets a new look
New signage now greets visitors to Frankenmuth and residents alike. In April, signs were installed on the Palmer Foundation Gateway Arch.
The arch stretches over the roadway on M-83, north of Townline Road, near Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. The entire project cost $918,000 and was funded by the Palmer Foundation.
The idea for a welcoming arch in Frankenmuth dates back to the 1970s, when Walter and Maria Palmer purchased a piece of property from Wally Bronner on the south side of Frankenmuth, just north of Bronner’s.
“It’s rewarding to see a project you work a long time on come to completion,” Frankenmuth Downtown Development Authority director Sheila Stamiris said. “Signs by Crannie did an excellent job to work with the design basis.”
Four signs were displayed on the archway – two facing south and two facing north.
Travelers heading north on M-83 into Michigan’s Little Bavaria can view a sign on top of the archway that says “Willkommen”–welcome in German. Those traveling south out of Frankenmuth can see a sign that reads “Auf Wiedersehen,” which in German means goodbye.
Former track star represents at Winter Olympics
Eric Franke competed at the highest level of athletic competition, winning a medal in his first Winter Olympic Games.
Franke spent one year at Frankenmuth High School in 2006-07 as a foreign exchange student from Germany. He became an Olympic medalist after winning silver in the four-man bobsled for Germany in February at the Olympic Winter Games in South Korea.
“To be honest, I still haven’t realized what it actually means to have won an Olympic medal,” Franke answered in an email to The Advertiser after the Olympics. “I knew if I made the Olympic team, the chances of winning a medal were pretty good.”
While attending Frankenmuth, Franke ran track and specialized in relay events. At the 2007 Division 3 state track and field meet, Franke was on the 400-meter relay and 800-meter relay teams that placed fifth. He was also on the 1600-meter relay team that finished eighth.
“To everyone who still remembers me from back then, or has heard of my story and supported me, thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “Your little town will be in my heart forever and you were all part of why I could make this possible.”