What is Karneval?

Mardi Gras the German Way

German Karneval may not sound all that different from the Carnival or Mardi Gras you’re familiar with in New Orleans or down in Brazil, but it really is another beast reckoning to be partied with. Karneval in Germany dates back to the 16th century and is one of the oldest German customs. Centurys older than Oktoberfest, and to most American’s surprise, much more popular. It is now custom for the new Prinz to be crowned in November, but the real party doesn’t traditionally begin until after Christmas and doesn’t stop until Ash Wednesday. In its early origins, Karneval opened the doors for the “common folk” to mock local politicians, often by walking the streets wearing caricature customs of the leader, all without fear of punishment. Today, many German’s carry on this very tradition with grand spectacles and parades that draw out millions of locals and vistors to the streets.

S.T. Prinz Wilhelm I

Prinz Wilhelm I in the cockpit

A Traveling History

Bill was born in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, and immigrated to the US in 1966 at the age of 13. It was on that Loftleidir Icelandic Canadair CL44 flight from Luxemburg to NYC where Bill met the first true love of his life: flying. He and his family settled in Illinois, and in a few short years, Bill was on his way to the U of I Champaign to make his dream a reality. Soon after taking on his first airline job post graduation with Aeormech Airlines, an Allegheny Commuter, Bill landed the job of a lifetime when he was hired by Northwest Airlines in 1983. Bill spent the next 35 years flying for Northwest, and after a merger, Delta Airlines. With his final flight from Rome, Italy to Detroit, Michigan, retired airline captain Bill knew it was time to for his next adventure as Prinz Wilhelm I.
Prinz Wilhelm I on the beach with his wife


August 13, 1953


Pilot (Retired)


Gelsenkirchen, Germany

Living Now

Bartlett, Illinois


Darlene Fuchs (39 Years)


2 Children 2 Grandkids
Prinz Wilhelm I at GermanFest

Sticking to His Roots

While Bill left his homeland of Germany more than 50 years ago, his commitment to his German culture and heritage has stayed strong ever since setting foot in the US. By 1986 he was sitting on the board of DANK Fox Valley, which propelled him into a 14-year position as chapter president from 1991 to 2005. After five successful years of starting and growing the Fox Valley Oktoberfest, Bill went on to serve as the DANK National President for four years. Bill has always been passionate about supporting the many Chicagoland German organizations, including the Rheinischer Verein, which he has been a member of for over 20 years.

The Krew

It takes more than a Prinz to create the magic of Karneval. Every member of the Krew — commonly refered to as the Prinzenpaar in Germany — plays an important role in assisting the Prinz through his reign and making Karneval a wild success.

Follow the Krew

Prinz Wilhelm I and his Krew stand out in any crowd, making them easy to spot if you know where to look.

With every Prinz appearance made public on the Events page, you have plenty of chances to meet the Prinz and Krew in person!

Prinz Events Friend the Prinz
Prinz Wilhelm I

Prinz Wilhelm I

Bill Fuchs
Prinzessin / Princess

Prinzessin Darlene I

Darlene Fuchs


Cooky Kraus


Kathleen Wolf


Dagmar Freiberger


Stephen Fuchs
Junior Princess

Junior Prinzessin Isabel I.

Lauren Willis


Erich Freiberger


Albert Mende

Rheinischer Verein

There would be no Prinz without the Rheinischer Verein! Established in 1890 by Germans who immigrated to the Chicago area from the Rheinland region of Germany, the Rheinischer Verein is the oldest German karneval organization in the United States. In its early years, only those who came from the Rheinland, Köln, Düsseldorf or Mainz were allowed to celebrate and obtain membership. It was also men only. Today, the organization no longer adheres to such strict terms and is open to all. One thing that hasn’t changed over the Reinischer Verein’s 125-plus years is the commitment to uphold its Rheinland Karneval traditions.
Rheinischer Verein Logo
Rheinischer Verein von Chicago

4265 N. Elston Ave. Chicago, IL 60618




Fanfaren parade march


The Fanfaren is the Rheinischer Verein’s German ethnic drum and bugle corps, a traditionial part of German Karneval season.
Amazonen Girls in parade


The Amazonen is the Rheinischer Verein’s Mardi Gras dance group that performs to the traditional German march music and modern hits.


The Elferrat, or Council of Elders, assist the club officials to ensure that the German Karnveal traditions carry on. The positions are held by past Prinzen.


The Prinzengarde act as the official Royal Honor Guard for the Prinz of Karneval and are often seen in the crowds pumping up the energy.