Oktoberfest in Amana

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It’s October! And you know what that means: Oktoberfest celebrations all across the state of Iowa. But what could be more authentic than Oktoberfest in the Amana Colonies, a group of villages settled by Germans in the mid-1800s?

The Amana Colonies consists of seven villages: Amana, Middle Amana, High Amana, West Amana, South Amana, Homestead, and East Amana. In each of these small towns you can see the brick and stone buildings constructed when the Germans first settled in the area.

Amana, the largest town, is known for its festivals – Winterfest, Prelude to Christmas, and Maifest to name a few – but Oktoberfest may be the largest and most popular of the festivals. The weather is great, the trees are changing colors, pumpkins are being harvested, and, well, there’s a whole lot of beer.

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Oktoberfest was held this weekend in Amana, and although it was a little on the chilly side when I was there on Saturday, with highs only around 50 degrees, there was still a large crowd in town enjoying the music, parade, authentic German cuisine, shops, and, of course, beer gardens.

I arrived in Amana just in time for the parade to begin. I like a good parade, but most parades are too long, too boring, and have too many gaps.

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I was pleasantly surprised by this parade – it was fairly brief but had all the good stuff a parade should have: marching bands, floats, horses, goofy local stuff, and a queen. I will forgive it for the political entries because overall it was very well managed.

After the parade ended I was hungry and headed for the nearest restaurant on the main street: Ox Yoke. I’ve eaten here before and didn’t love it, but I figured they’d still be serving breakfast because it was just a smidge after 10:30. But not only were they no longer serving breakfast, they weren’t serving anything at all. Seating for lunch apparently begins at 11 a.m. We opted instead for the Ronneburg Restaurant, which serves authentic German food. Of course, that means it’s not vegetarian-friendly, but the server assured me the salads and sides would fill me up. I ordered a green salad (a large plate of mixed lettuce with boiled egg, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, and blue cheese dressing), a piece of coconut-cream pie, and a cup of coffee. The service was friendly and the atmosphere was pleasant enough.

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Back outside, all along the main street, bands were playing German beer-drinking music, people were helping themselves to beer and brats, shops were giving out samples of fudge, and the whole town smelled like kettle corn. Pumpkins, Indian corn, and scarecrows were everywhere. I do love fall.

For those who were interested, bands played a variety of music all weekend at the Festhalle barn (for an entry fee), you could  take a ride on a horse-drawn carriage for $5 per person, and there were a number of demonstrations and tours. We did none of this.

We headed instead for Millstream Brewing Company, Iowa’s oldest craft brewery. Even at noon the place was hopping, with cold draught beer being poured inside and out, plus polka music and a long line for brats.

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We were lucky to get seats at a large shared table and enjoyed a couple of Oktoberfest beers while listening to a band consisting of an accordion and a tuba. Gotta love that. We also bought a six-pack of Millstream Oktoberfest to bring home. I look forward to this beer every year.

After leaving Amana we drove to a few of the other villages along the 17-mile Amana Colonies Trail loop. The farmland in that area is just lovely, and the small villages each have something to draw visitors: mostly museums, shops, art studios, and B&Bs. The Broom & Basket Shop in West Amana is said to have a giant rocker, but I didn’t stop to check it out.

I did make a stop at Fern Hill Gifts & Quilts in South Amana, and it’s a destination I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys shopping for home décor, seasonal decorations, quilts, and gifts. The shop also had pie and fudge.

Check out all the Amana Colonies’ events here. The next big festival is Prelude to Christmas Dec. 5-7.

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