Students in step with culture during annual German-American Day at McDaniel College

Students participated in German folk dancing on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, as a part of the annual German-American Day event at McDaniel College.

More than a dozen high schoolers stood in the center of the WMC Alumni Hall stage, hands holding colorful fabric connected to a center pole.

Slowly at first, though rhythmically as confidence grew, the students wound around the pole — some dipped under, others over, as the fabric wrapped around the maypole.


The dance was one of a handful students got the chance to learn Tuesday as a part of the 24th annual McDaniel College German-American Day, which allows middle and high school students to participate in workshops and hands-on activities. Nearly 800 students from across Maryland, Washington, D.C., and central Pennsylvania and 19 schools participated this year, according to a news release from the college.

Liberty High School, South Carroll High School, Westminster High School and Springdale Preparatory School came from Carroll this year, according to the release.

For 17-year-old Abby Burrows, a senior at Liberty High School, Tuesday was a chance to participate in a new type of dance. It’s fun to work with other students, she said.

“I’ve been a dancer for about 10 years,” Burrows said. “I thought this would be a fun experience for me.”

Burrows said she’s done jazz, hip-hop and more over the years, so it was great to try a new dance style.

But, although doing the dance was new to her, Burrows said the culture is not. She said she’s part German and has some family from Germany.

“It's actually very familiar for me,” she added.

Folk dancing wasn’t the only workshop students could participate in Tuesday. Other workshops included information on the Holocaust, German and American military relations, Christmas in Germany, German music, cheese making and face painting.

Students also got to have a traditional German lunch and watch a music and dance performance.

Mohamed Esa, a professor of German at McDaniel, said the event started in 1995 as an outreach to high school and middle school teachers and students to share German history and culture.

“That was the original idea but then it mushroomed and more and more schools wanted to come,” Esa said, adding that it began with two workshops and now has more than 20.

The event is a chance for students to submerge themselves and appreciate another culture, he said. The day gives them an opportunity to open their minds, he added.

The day concluded with a dance performance by those teaching the morning’s folk dance workshop — students from the Spotsylvania Alpentänzer folk dance group from Courtland High School.

Zac Mann, 17, is a senior at the school, and has been involved in the dancing for two years. He started as a part of taking German in school.


“A part of learning the language is also learning the culture,” he said.

Mann said German and dance have become something he’s interested.

But for Catherine Smith, a 16-year-old junior at the school who is also involved in Spotsylvania Alpentänzer folk dance group, learning the language is more than just a hobby.

“I plan on minoring in German and becoming a translator,” she said. But, she added, it’s fun too. “It's great, people love it, they find it really entertaining to watch us get all dressed up and dance in front of them.”