It is a curious German tradition that local produce is often honoured with its own “queen”. The elected monarchs tend to be pretty local girls whose job is to be photographed wearing rustic dresses while holding a basket of asparagus, a glass of wine, or even a fish.
And the town of Guben in Brandenburg is no different. It has elected its own Apple Queen at the town's Applefest each autumn since 1995.
For the first 21 years that the competition was held only women were allowed to participate. But in 2016 only one candidate, Antonia Lieske, put herself forward.
So the local tourism authority, desperate to ensure that Guben would once again have an Apple Queen, opened the competition up to men.
After years of waiting, 42-year-old Steidel saw his chance. But his dreams were to be shattered – the crowd at the Applefest went with tradition and voted for Lieske.
Steidel suspected the vote hadn’t been fair and took the tourism office to court, demanding a hefty €25,000 in compensation.
The court was packed on Tuesday, as curious locals came to watch the proceedings. Few though seemed to have sympathy for Steidel's cause.
“He’s just a bad loser,” one spectator who attended the Applefest said. “It’s wounded pride,” the woman sitting next to her agreed.
Even the town mayor, Fred Mahro, was in attendance.
“I can barely contain my anger that our court system has to waste its time with this nonsense,” he said.
The court proceedings ended up being short but sweet.
“What exactly do you want to complain about?” the judge asked Steidel.
“The voting was manipulated,” the 42-year-old replied. He admitted though that his accusation was “only an assumption.”
“Do you have any credible evidence?” the judge asked. Steidel remained silent.
But then he went on the attack, claiming that Lieske had no driver’s licence and that she had hidden this from voters at the Applefest. If the crowd had known the whole truth, they would have voted differently, he said.
“Anyone who occupies the office of Apple Queen needs to have a driver’s license, that’s how I see it,” he added.
The tourism office’s lawyer responded that possessing a driver’s licence is not a condition for becoming the Apple Queen. He further asserted that the vote had not been manipulated.
After a few minutes, the judge brought proceedings to a close by announcing that a decision would be made on the case on September 7th.
A few weeks later the annual Applefest will once again be held. But this time Steidel will not be a on the list – the tourism office refused to accept his candidacy due to the court case.