A very unique and very German style of hat will help locals and visitors alike celebrate the upcoming Oktoberfest weekends in Hermann.
The stylish lids were the brainchild of Rick Hessler, former proprietor of The Vinchester Inn who passed away in 2018. Family members recall Hessler's love for Oktoberfest, and how much he enjoyed meeting and talking with people. Hessler even went so far as to don lederhosen to pair with the hat as he made his way to Hermann's many favorite hangouts to mingle with the crowds. That tradition began in 2012.
"He's the reason the hat exists," said one of his daughters, Hannah Hessler-James, who is now a co-owner of the Vinchester. "He'd get so many compliments from it. He wanted a hat to go along with his lederhosen. He wanted something a little different. He just loved to have fun, and loved Hermann. He loved Oktoberfest."
The original alpine-style hat -- which is displayed in the hotel's lobby -- is a grey herringbone fedora that included old twine and feathers harvested from Missouri pheasants. His family and friends created on replicas of the hat as an homage to Hessler and his love of Hermann. Available at the Inn and other venues, It's hoped the hats will continue to become a hit around town -- and just in time for the festive weekends.
"We found a hat that's very close to the original," Hessler-James said of the idea. "He made them for his friends a couple of times."
She and her friends discussed the idea of making the hats on a larger scale. That's when the notion took root in an impromptu manner, with gradually more copies using the herringbone fedora as a base and some sales made last fall. Hessler-James said her father would absolutely love how his creation has soared.
With Oktoberfest just days away, the Inn has a sizable backstock of hats ready to go and a system developed to replenish supplies around town. The fedoras are being billed as appropriate wear for touring Hermann's wineries. A Midwest supplier is providing the pheasant feathers. A bridal veil has been incorporated into another of the designs, one that's hoped will become a winner at the town's famous bachelorette parties.
The Hermann Board of Aldermen recently approved allowing Vinchester to have a gift shop in the lobby. Hessler-James said that in honor of her father, a portion of proceeds from these sales will go to the food pantry.