Beachnau reflects on Der Buergermeister title ahead of Alpenfest

Beachnau reflects on Der Buergermeister title ahead of Alpenfest

GAYLORD — When someone is selected as Der Buergermeister for Gaylord’s Alpenfest summer festival, it is an important milestone in someone’s life.

Achieving the coveted title of Der Buergermeister is a thank you to the community for its lifelong community involvement, helping to make Gaylord a better place.

This year’s Buergermeister, Paul Beachnau, executive director of the Gaylord Area Convention and Tourism Bureau, has been a fixture in the community since he was a child. He lived in Lansing until 1972, when his father, Richard, took a position with the Catholic Diocese of Gaylord.

“I attended Gaylord from fourth grade on. I went to Gaylord St. Mary from elementary school through high school, where I played football,” he said.

After earning his degree in public administration from Michigan State University, Beachnau returned to Gaylord at age 22 to serve as executive director of the Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce.

“I loved Northern Michigan and knew I wanted to return to the area. Over the years, I’ve been offered positions outside of Gaylord. But I’ve never wanted to move. This is my home,” Beachnau said.

Der Buergermeister, which translates to The Mayor in German, has a special meaning for Beachnau. His father was Der Buergermeister at the 1997 Alpenfest.

“I remember wearing the little suspenders my mom made for me and going downtown to all the activities. Alpenfest has been a part of my life since I was a kid,” Beachnau said.

“Alpenfest is part of the soul of Gaylord. It brings us together as a community to celebrate our successes. To me, Alpenfest is the backbone of the community that holds us together,” he added.

Alpenfest also brings families together again.

“My brother is coming here for his 50th high school reunion. People are planning to come back to Gaylord during Alpenfest,” Beachnau said.

Not only has Beachnau spent his entire professional career at Gaylord, he has also been active in local government and community organizations. He became aware of community involvement when he accompanied his father to his activities.

“My dad was involved in the United Way and other community groups. I remember going to all the meetings with him, partly because there were always donuts available,” he said, laughing.

Beachnau is a longtime Rotary member, having served as Otsego County commissioner for 18 years, including a stint as county board chairman.

“I love serving the people of Otsego County and Gaylord. We have great assets like lakes, parks and trails. But the best asset is the people. When you’re here, you feel at home,” Beachnau said.

Two recent tragedies have reminded Beachnau of the heart of this community. One was the May 20, 2022 tornado that left a trail of destruction through the area. After the storm, which left two dead and 44 injured in addition to millions of dollars in damage, Beachnau led Detroit Free Press columnist Neal Rubin through the community.

Beachnau said Rubin was very impressed with the community’s response.

“Rubin told me that Gaylord was a great place on a sunny day in June. It’s an even greater place after a natural disaster like a tornado. That stuck with me and that’s exactly how I feel about this community,” he said.

The other tragedy that befell Beachnau occurred last October, when his home was destroyed by fire.

“The amount of support I received was amazing. People, including people I didn’t know, reached out to me and offered me gift cards. My best friend picked up some pants for me. I lost everything, but I plan to build a new house on the same site soon,” he said.

The 59th edition of Alpenfest begins Tuesday, July 9 and runs through Saturday, July 13 in downtown Gaylord. A full schedule of events can be found at

In addition to Beachnau, other award winners announced jointly by the Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the 2024 Alpenfest Committee include parade marshal Kay Lyn Jeakle, a teacher at Gaylord Intermediate School. The honor of parade marshal goes to an individual who has been a champion of Alpenfest for many years.

George Sorenson was named the winner of the DAR Award, which is designed to collectively honor all Alpenfest volunteers who work behind the scenes. The award is named after Dar Mongeau, who assisted her husband Jim with his duties as Alpenfest’s general manager for many years.

The Edelweiss Award goes to Kari Jo Stefanski, who works at Serra Ford. This award is given to an individual who goes above and beyond the usual volunteer duties. This award is named in memory of Pam Duczkowski and Patti Dobrzelewski, who have given of their time and energy by organizing successful events in the community over the years.

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The Alpine Chocolat Haus, owned by Bruce and Barb Brown, is the winner of the Alpenfest Honored Industry Award. This is given to a local business or organization that is a “good friend of Alpenfest” and promotes the event by volunteering or helping with a monetary donation.

All award winners will be announced on July 9 at 11:30 a.m. during the Alpenfest Honors Luncheon in the South Court Avenue Pavilion.

Contact Paul Welitzkin at [email protected].