The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Amana Colonies bring German fair to Iowa

Germany is more than beer, and the Amana Colonies are more than small villages.

Originally founded by a group of faithful Christian immigrants from Germany, the Amana Colonies lie roughly 60 miles east of Grinnell.
Ever since 1965, every first weekend of October they have hosted a festival with marching bands, beer and an abundance of blue and white decorations. Dubbed “little bit of Bavaria in Iowa,” the festival is Amana’s own Oktoberfest, a German festival held in Munich, often described as “the world’s largest fair.”

Even though the Oktoberfest in the Amana Colonies are not nearly as old as the real Oktoberfest, its custom is already firmly established, with some visitors making their way to the Colonies every year.

“It’s a tradition,” a group from northern Iowa said. “We come every year.”

For those involved, the experience starts far before October.

“We start practicing eight weeks before the Oktoberfest for our only gig,” said Randy Kinder, the drummer of the band Die TiefenKeller, said. “That’s how we’ve been doing it for 32 years.”

Attendance has increased steadily throughout the years, with last year setting the highest tally yet.

“We had just over 35,000 visitors [in 2008],” said John, an Amana local. “This year we’re expecting nearly as much—at least 25,000.”

The annual event is great for business in the small villages of the Amana Colonies, as thousands of festival goers come from every direction with money to spend.

“The Saturday of the Oktoberfest is generally our biggest business day of the whole year,” an employee of the Amana General Store said “We were praying for good weather.’

Unwelcome rain may have stopped some from coming out this year, but there was still plenty people dedicated enough to drive from other states.

“We came all the way from Lenexa, Kansas,” a married couple in their mid-50s of German ancestry, said. “It is lots of fun, not as good as Germany, but close. The same goes for the beer.”

Beer, a central focus of Oktoberfest, is offered in plenty of varieties, with the Amana-homebrewed beer being the most popular. But it is not just the beer that draws people to the Oktoberfest.

“I come her for the Deutsche experience,” an unnamed Germany-lover from Iowa City said. “Plus it’s the only German Celebration I’ve ever been to. It’s fun—the folks here are having a lot of fun.”

Unfortunately, this is Iowa, not Germany, as is evident by the relative lack of lederhosen and dirndls. The “Willkommen” or “Welcome” at the front entrance does its best to set the festive mood. Regardless, there will be critics, including Grinnell Student Jacob Gjesdahl ’10, who lived in Bavaria for over year

When asked his opinion, Gjesdahl responded, “Net authentisch,” or in our Iowan dialect, “not authentic.”

Nevertheless, the festival is German enough for the thousands of people who frequent every year. As long as they keep holding it, visitors will surely come for the first weekend in October to drink, eat and be entertained. It’s a little escape from the Midwest without even leaving Iowa.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *