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The Scarlet & Black

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Oktoberfest: Germans, bratwurst, beer conquer Grinnellians

Each year, millions of people attend Oktoberfest, a 200-year-old celebration located in Munich, Germany. This festival features bratwurst, men in German garb and lots of locally brewed beer. Last Friday, 57 Grinnellians experienced all of that less than 45 minutes away from the College. Founded by German immigrants in the 19th century, the Amana Colonies host an Oktoberfest each year, and this one left many students amazed … and reassessing their ability to intake alcohol.

Maddie Gardner '12 dances the night away with a newly found dance partner at Oktoberfest. Photograph by Melanie Jucewicz.

At 5:30 p.m., a crowd of rosy-cheeked Grinnellians eagerly ascended the stairs of a school bus. I, being one of those rosy-cheeked individuals, joined in with excited conversations and general merriment.

“I am so excited to get out of Grinnell,” one student gushed to another, a sentiment repeated from seat to seat.

“Yeah,” replied someone else, “I just needed a break from it all, you know?”

Little did we realize that our “break” would test our ability to roll with the big guns, a.k.a. elderly people at Oktoberfest.

Students who consider Grinnell to be a rural town have most likely never ventured further outside its limits than Dari Barn or Wal-Mart. Becoming acquainted with Iowa’s more rustic self takes time, acceptance, and a well-established escape plan. Visiting the Amana Colonies is like skipping the aforementioned steps and then taking a time machine to the mid-20th century. In short, the students aboard the bus were about to receive a crash-course on pure, unadulterated Iowa living.

We reached Amana around 6:45 p.m. and quickly assessed our surroundings. Wood and brick buildings seemed to be popular, as even the local Casey’s gas station had traded in its signature red roof and cheap exterior for brick walls and an ivy decor. Although the beautification of Casey’s should have informed us that the Amanas were a force to be reckoned with, we paid no heed to the warning and barreled ruthlessly on.

The Amana Colonies’ Oktoberfest was held in a large white tent adjacent to an even larger barn. We made our first stop in the tent and evaluated our options at the beer line. From the three locally brewed Millstream beers available—wheat, pilsner, and Oktoberfest—we could buy either a 14 oz stein for $13 and then get refills for $3.50, or we could buy a 35 oz. stein for $18 and buy refills for $10. I opted for the 14 oz out of concern for my safety, but the more daring drinkers purchased the 35 oz. By the end of the night, the size of our steins made no difference to the state of our being.

To accompany our brews and to revel in the fact that we had escaped the D-Hall’s clutches for an evening, we bought sauerkraut with a side of bratwurst. Although the food was good, its primary function lay in allowing us to discreetly people watch, which we did with enthusiasm.

Everyone there was much, much older than the Grinnell crowd, and many of them sported lederhosen—leather breeches from Germany. Those not wearing German garb opted to wear traditional hats instead, a more subtle approach.

The barn, which was the hub of Oktoberfest activity, was festooned with Christmas lights, German flags and pumpkins. Like beer halls at the Oktoberfest in Munich, picnic tables were arranged in long rows facing vertically towards the stage so people could watch the entertainment, a band that covered both German songs and Neil Diamond, and a large ensemble that stuck to traditional German music. It should be noted that many, if not all, of the band members had a stein of beer next to their sheet music.

As the music played and our drinks slowly emptied, Grinnellians and Germans alike were pulled inextricably to the dance floor. I know no name to describe the kind of dancing that went on that night, but I thought it looked pretty damn good. I even believe I saw the SGA President dancing with many a blue-haired lady, but that could have been a mirage created by the twinkling of the Christmas lights. In fact it was probably just another tall young male with scruffy facial hair and an unkempt appearance.

As the night wore on, German chants filled the barn with noise. With a “Zicke zacke zicke zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi” here, an “Ein prosit!” there, I think all of the Grinnell students believed for fleeting moments that they could speak German.

Eventually, our night of rowdy fun came to an end it was time to once again ascend the bus stairs. Although I can personally say that the ride back to Grinnell was no treat, the experience in itself was unforgettable. Conquered by Iowa, Germans and too much beer, Grinnellians somehow remember their time in Amana fondly.

“It was the best!” Melanie Jucewicz ’12 and Maddie Gardner ’12 said in unison.

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    bracesAug 28, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Hi there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I genuinely enjoy reading your articles. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same topics? Thanks!