little luxembourgers

Everybody can become a Luxembourger for a day at Remsen, Iowa's Oktoberfest, taking place on Oct. 28. Don't know where Luxembourg is? Well, actually it's a very small country surrounded by Belgium, France and Germany. Remsen was founded by former Luxembourgers.

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REMSEN, Iowa | There will be a whole lot of "Zicke zacke, zicke zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi"-ing going on in the Plymouth County town of Remsen on Oct. 28.

That's when the community of 1,650 will hold an Oktoberfest celebration to showcase its German and Luxembourg heritage.

A traditional festival boasting food, drink and entertainment, the world's very first Oktoberfest was held in Munich, Germany, as a way to honor of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig's marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festivities began on Oct. 12, 1810, and ended with a horse race five days later. 

Munich's official Oktoberfest was such a hit that it eventually became an annual event. Also, that five-day event  turned into an 18-day extravaganza.

This year, Munich's Oktoberfest began Sept. 16 and ended Oct. 3.

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remsen kids

Oktoberfest is the best time to wear lederhosen, according to Remsen, Ia.'s Oktoberfest chairman Michael Matgen. These kids were dressed in their Luxembourg finest from the 2015 event.

Wait, can this be right? Why in the world would Oktoberfest start in September? Most historians say September nights in Bavaria were simply warmer and not as dark as nights in October.

After all, you can spend more time in the outdoor beer garden when you're not shivering in a cold autumn night.

While Munich's Oktoberfest is known to attract more than 6 million people from around the world, Remsen's Oktoberfest won't be quite as busy.

According to 2017 Remsen Oktoberfest chairman Michael Matgen, the celebration has only been around for the past 44 years.

"Our Oktoberfest was started in 1973 by three local couples who wanted a way for the community to come together and have a good time," he explained. 

Unlike its inspiration, the Remsen Oktoberfest always takes place on the last Saturday in October.

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remsen oktoberfest logo

According to Matgen, it also became a way to catch up with people that a person hadn't seen in a while.  

And what's a surefire way of attracting a crowd? We're guessing kids in funny costumes may do the trick.

"We have a prince and princess contest where the kids get all geared up in their Bavarian costumes," Matgen said. "(The kids) will answer a few questions from the audiences and judges. Also, they'll learn how to do the polka."

If your idea of entertainment is more artsy, there will will be an Oktoberfest craft and vendor show at 10 a.m. Oct. 28 in the auditorium of the MMCRU Middle School, 511 Roosevelt Ave. 

People desiring more oomp-pah-pah, may enjoy Jim Strehlke's Alpensterne, a traditional polka band playing at St. Mary's Catholic High School, 523 Madison St., starting at 1 p.m. Oct. 28.

OK, let's say you're in a particular weird mood and wanted to hear a polka version of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back." Surprisingly, you'll be in luck at Remsen's Oktoberfest. The Polka Police (brothers Jamie and Jason Burmeister) will do polka covers of Run-DMC, Michael Jackson and Taylor Swift songs at 5 p.m., also in the Catholic high school auditorium.

Perhaps the thing that draws the most oohs and aahs at Oktoberfest is the food, offered from 3 to 8 p.m. at St. Mary's High School.

"Our family style dinner offers an American menu of roast beef, chicken mashed potatoes, gravy and rolls," Matgen said. "We also have a Luxembourg and German menu that includes bratwurst, German potato salad, sauerkraut, headcheese and treipen."

Hold on we're familiar with most of that food. But what's headcheese and treipen, anyway? You'll have to Google those for specific details.

Ultimately, Remsen's Oktoberfest is all about fun.

"It's a time when everyone gets dressed up in their best lederhosen and dresses," Matgen said. "You drink and you dance. What more could you want?"

So, you don't have to be German to enjoy Oktoberfest, right? 

"You can be whatever you want to be at Oktoberfest," Matgen said. "Check it out!"

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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