For Noll Family, First Mainstrasse Without Mick is Bittersweet
Mick Noll's iconic German-inspired food booth will be open for business as Covington's Maifest opens on Friday in Mainstrasse Village. Though the booth's namesale - a founder of the Village and its associated festivals - died last November, his family is carrying the torch. And the super brats. And goetta balls.
"We're trying to keep up to his standard. He taught me and my brothers and my mom - well, he didn't teach my mom, she taught him," said Mick Noll's son, Ludwig Noll, who was clad in his lederhosen during a Maifest media preview earlier this week at Commonwealth Bistro on Main Street. "But, he taught us everything we need to know to do it."
The booth is almost always found at the corner of Sixth and Philadelphia Streets, where Glier's Goetta is used for the popular balls, and German meats and treats are also bought en masse at each festival.
The only thing missing will be Mick.
"It's bittersweet, it's really bittersweet," Noll said. "We've had one event already to help us get ready emotionally."
His father, Ludwig said, was about celebrating life. "Not just German culture and history, which we have always embraced, but anybody and everybody," he said. "That's what these festivals are about. It's about bringing everybody together whether you know them or not, whether you're from Helentown or Botany Hills or from all over the city and Cincinnati. It brings them together and they sit down and have a beer and a brat and a pretzel and whatever kind of good food that you want, and they sit and enjoy each other. That's what he taught me. That's what we're doing this for. That's what it was about for us."
Pat Noll, Mick's wife and the mother of three sons (Ludwig, John, and Joseph), was at Commonwealth Bistro, too, to present one of Mick's treasures to Chef Chris Burns. It was the top of a beer barrel that had been cut in half and adorned with art that shows three rabbits and features a riddle of sorts. Local German historian Don Heinrich Tolzmann was on hand to translate the words: Three rabbits with three sets of ears and each has two of the same. "It's a riddle, you have to figure out what it means to have two of the same," Tolzmann said.
Pat Noll explained that the barrell art had been created for the family's restaurant, Covington Haus, which operated for years on Sixth Street in a former Covington firehouse. "He cut it in half and had it painted," Pat Noll said. "It represented cooperation. If you didn't have enough of something, you share with your partners. It was like getting people together and sharing all your talents."
Chris Burns and Mick Noll had developed a friendship, and Commonwealth Bistro is one of the latest attractions added to a German-inspired neighborhood that Mick Noll helped establish nearly forty years ago. As it turns out, the rabbit is a symbol used in Commonwealth's branding.
"I had some shirts made a couple years ago," Ludwig said. "They said, Das ist tradition."
Now as Maifest rolls around again, and a piece of Mick Noll's art is placed at Commonwealth, that tradition lives on.
"He loved Mainstrasse," Pat Noll said of her late husband, as she began to choke up, handing over the barrel to Chef Burns. "So, this will be very nice that it is kept in an area which he liked."
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher
Photo: Ludwig Noll holds his daughter, and Pat Noll stands next to Chef Chris Burns (RCN)