Siblings Paul and Kathy Germann maintain two family root beer stands at the fair. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)
Siblings Paul and Kathy Germann maintain two family root beer stands at the fair. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)

VAN WERT – It was 1939 when Homer and Lucille Drake started their root beer business at the Van Wert County Fair. In 1948, family members Chuck, Charles and Helen Mowery opened a second root beer stand, under the name of Mowery Root Beer.

These days, Paul Germann runs the traditional family Germann Root Beer stand, located on the north side of the fairgrounds while his sister, Kathy Germann, runs the Mowery Root Beer stand, located on the west side of the fairgrounds.

Paul Germann chuckles these days because all of the root beer is mixed in the Germann stand for both businesses. However, people will sometimes insist that root beer in one stand or the other tastes better.

“People sometimes tell me that the Mowery root beer tastes better,” quipped Germann. “It was all mixed together here in the same place. We just mix it and then take some of it to the Mowery stand.”

Eventually, in 1976, Paul and Kathy purchased the family business from their grandma, Evelyn Germann, and they have kept it going ever since. By that time, the business had passed down through numerous family members.

For many years, the root beer stand made its way to other fairs such as Seneca County, Henry County, Mercer County (with a stand at both Henry and Mercer at the same time), Defiance County at Hicksville and Van Wert County.

These days, Paul has a plaque displayed in the Germann Stand that he was awarded at Hicksville last year for 70 years of service.

“I really enjoy doing this. I love the people and friends that we’ve made over the years,” said Paul.

Kathy expressed the same sentiments from her perspective at the Mowery Stand.

“Things at the fair have changed over the years,” commented Kathy. “They would fry chicken at home and bring picnics to the fair. Labor Day was always picnic day at the fair. A lot of families would sit around the race track together.”

“Aunt Helen used to open the root beer stand in their front yard at the corner of Wren-Landeck and Jonestown Roads,” continued Kathy. “Some people still remember stopping there and purchasing root beer.”

Over the years, when the Germann siblings weren’t traveling with the root beer stand, they farmed together.

“We still enjoy this but we’re getting more tired,” said Paul. “We have three fairs together. We go to Celina. That ends on Friday and then we head to Hicksville. Then that ends and we move in here at noon on Sunday to get ready for opening.

“The other day some little child came up to me and wanted to know if I remember him,” continued Paul. “I really didn’t but I must have sold him some root beer sometime. It touched my heart. It’s moments like that which keep us going, even if we are tired.”