The Gulf Coast Enzianer Schuhplattler Verein, Inc. is more than just another dance group. It is a nonprofit, cultural preservation society focused on Bavarian culture of the late nineteenth century, circa 1880-1900. The Verein preserves this culture through traditional dance, costume, and other customs.
In the fall of 1977, three former members of Edelweiß-Passaic, a Schuhplattler group in Passaic, New Jersey, met at an Oktoberfest that was held at Germania Hall, the club house of the German-American Society in Pinellas Park, Florida. Cathy and Rolf Rautenbach and Ken Tinsley discussed the possibility of forming a new Schuhplattler group and recruited several members of the German-American Society. A group formed, but did not officially take a name until April 1978. In 1980, the Gulf Coast Enzianer Schuhplattler Verein became incorporated in the State of Florida.
By 1980, the Verein made its mark on Tampa Bay as they hosted the area’s first Maifest. It was favorably received, so it was decided to make it an annual event. The three-day festival continued for many years, the last one being in 1989. In that same year, the Gulf Coast Enzianer held their first Stiftungsfest (anniversary festival) in St. Petersburg. The hall overflowed with people and Gemütlichkeit. Since then, there have been several Anniversary Festivals and Balls, the most successful being the 20th Anniversary Festival. Friends and guests, which included many German-American business leaders of the Tampa Bay community, and German Pop Star Tony Marshall, made this event a night to remember.
The Gulf Coast Enzianer stay active throughout the year, although October is their busiest time. They have danced their way across Florida, having appeared everywhere from the opening of Germany at Epcot Center, the Top O’ The Bay Octoberfest, and Oktoberfest Tampa, to engagements for many private organizations. In 1991, they traveled to the island of Curaçao to perform for an Octoberfest.
Throughout the years, many members have also been members of the German American Society of Pinellas County. In 1997, in an effort to promote stronger ties, all of the members of the Gulf Coast Enzianer also became members of the German American Society. Since that time, they have worked together to preserve German culture and tradition.
The Verein is a member of the Gauverband Nordamerika, a parent organization dedicated to preserving and perpetuating the cultural heritage of Bavaria and Tyrol, with over 60 member clubs in North America. The convention that is held every two years provides an excellent opportunity for the membership to learn, compete, and party! At the 2011 Gaufest, the Gulf Coast Enzianer entered the competition for the first time in club history. They are very proud of the six children who represented them.
8098 66th Street North, Pinellas Park, Florida, USA