Von Steuben and the Parade
The parade was named by its founders after Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a Prussian-born General who served under General George Washington in the Revolutionary War. Von Steuben is still regarded as one of the most important German Americans, as his training of the young American troops made victory against the British possible and thus his work helped in gaining independence for the United States of America.
A German Guggenmusik band performs at the Steuben Parade in New York
Every year the German-American Steuben Parade is led by cadets representing the German Language Club of the Military Academy of West Point, which was founded by General von Steuben. However, it is not a parade in the military tradition. The rest of the about three hour long parade is dominated by traditional German brass music groups and marching bands, by clubs and organization wearing traditional German Tracht, as well as by carnival groups, marksmen or representatives of other traditions. For many years, the parade has had a strong Bavarian theme, dominated by men wearing Lederhosen, women in Dirndl and groups dancing the traditional Schuhplattler. Recently though, the parade opened up to represent more German themes.
Grand Marshal and Guest of Honor
Every year, the German-American Steuben Parade is led by one or more Grand Marshals, who are either American citizens with a German background or German citizens with a distinct relationship to America.
The Grand Marshals in 2008 will be Hollywood star Ralf Müller, NYSE CEO Duncan Niederauer and Col. Gail Halvorsen, the "Candy-Bomber" from the 1948-49 Berlin Airlift. The German state of Hesse will be the official partner state of the 2008 Steuben Parade.
In 2007, celebrating the 50th Anniversary German-American Steuben Parade, the Grand Marshal was former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, who was born in the Franconia region of Bavaria in Germany. The Guest of Honor was Dr. Klaus Scharioth, the German Ambassador to the United States. Also invited was former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, who is known to have a deep personal friendship towards America. In many speeches throughout his career, Kohl mentioned how grateful he was when, as a hungry school boy in post-war Germany, he received food from American GIs. However, Kohl had to cancel his appearance because of health reasons.
Over the years the Steuben Parade has had many distinguished Germans and Americans leading it. Former Grand Marshals were Donald Trump, Siegfried & Roy, George Steinbrenner, Carol Alt, Eric Braeden, John Roland, Louis Freeh, as well as many politicians without a personal German background but a great appreciation of the German culture. Among those were Michael Bloomberg, Rudolph Giuliani and George Pataki.
Among the Guests of Honor have been three German presidents: Walter Scheel, Richard von Weizsäcker and Johannes Rau, as well as other dignitaries from the political and economic fields, including state prime ministers Erwin Teufel, Kurt Biedenkopf and Bernhard Vogel.