For an unforgettable view, drive into Oldenburg from the north where scenic hills frame the European-looking small town.
Few communities embrace their heritage as visibly and wholly as Oldenburg. The town’s German influence is as unmistakable as its Catholic roots. Street signs are bilingual (German and English), and fire hydrants are painted works of art, reflecting German themes. The town’s shops and multiple pubs reflect an Old World atmosphere in their architecture.
Each July, Oldenburg stages “Freudenfest,” a local festival celebrating the town and its heritage. The annual event started back in 1976 as a small local “day of fun.” Since then, Freudenfest has grown into a two-day spectacular attracting tens of thousands of people from Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. Today, the “Biggest Little German Festival in Indiana” features an impressive lineup of entertainment, food (be sure to try the signature Sauerkraut Balls!), German beer, dachshund races, games, contests, and more.
Oldenburg is also home to Holy Family Church and to the Sisters of St. Francis, who have maintained a presence in the community since 1851. The sisters offer tours of the convent by appointment, and a trip to the cemetery is a must. Identical white crosses line the burial ground in striking uniformity, interrupted only by an 1898 stone chapel in the cemetery’s center and a cross inscribed in German. Nearby, the Holy Family Parish Cemetery is noted for its unusual iron grave markers.
Immediately north of town, the nuns operate Michaela Farm, which hosts a variety of programs for all ages, tapping an increasing interest in organic farming and locally grown food. A stroll among the historic buildings — including a truly awe-inspiring brick barn — the animals, and the fields reveals Michaela Farm as a case study in how humans can enter into a “mutually enhancing relationship” with the land, which is the sisters’ goal for the farm.
To borrow from current jargon, Oldenburg “keeps it real” – embracing its past whole-heartedly. Even if your personal heritage isn’t German, a visit to Oldenburg might leave you humming a few bars of “Danke Schoen” in appreciation.
Sisters of St. Francis
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