Lakefield's Oktoberfest features beer, polka, German food and fun

After last year's curtailed celebration of German culture, Oktoberfest will return to Lakefield Saturday, raising money for Immanuel Lutheran School and offering up traditional German food, music and yes, beer too.

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Lakefield's Oktoberfest celebration was promoted with a float in Worthington's King Turkey Day parade in 2019. Oktoberfest, which includes German foods, music and games, was at the Lakefield City Park. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)

LAKEFIELD — You don’t have to be German to celebrate Immanuel Oktoberfest 2021, and while the sauerkraut will definitely be available on Saturday at North City Park in Lakefield for those who love its savory tang, that isn’t compulsory either.

“It started out to get the communities together, and especially since COVID, everybody’s been kind of behind closed doors and talking to the screens,” said Larry Oelke, chairman of Immanuel Lutheran's Oktoberfest committee. “So we’re looking forward to a good turnout, and it sounds like the weather’s going to be good.”

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, part of the festival was cancelled, but the meals were still offered on a drive-up basis.

This will be Oktoberfest’s fifth year, and thus far, the event has raised more than $30,000 for Immanuel Lutheran Church’s private school — minus a bit paid to the polka bands for the event.

Participants are encouraged to wear traditional German lederhosen, the short pants usually worn with a shirt and suspenders, or dirndls, the traditional folk dress featuring a bodice, blouse, skirt and apron.


The fun starts at 11 a.m. and doesn’t stop until 9 p.m., with events for all ages. There is no cover charge.

A craft and vendor show runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. under a big tent in the north part of the park. Meanwhile, games for elementary school-aged children run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the center of the park, with fish ponds and duck ponds as well as the ever-popular “crazy driver” game, in which kids steer a little ball through a mock road for points and prizes.

Authentic German food will be served at the shelter house from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and if the options there aren’t enough, beverages, kielbasa, funnel cake and pretzels will be available at outdoor food booths throughout the park from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The sauerbraten meatball subs are always a huge hit, Oelke said, but there are lots of other foods available too, including pork on a stick, grilled over charcoal, German beer cheese soup, German potato salad, German chocolate cake, German apple cake and Black Forest cake.

“We don’t worry about the diets that day,” Oelke joked.

Befitting a party called Oktoberfest, participants of drinking age can also head for the beer garden from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. to sample a brew or two, including Schell’s Oktoberfest beer, a Grain Belt brew and even Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen Grapefruit.

Adults who wish to test their mettle can participate in one of two competitions. Starting at 3 p.m. is the nail-pounding contest, in which people vie to pound a nail the farthest into a stump using a round-headed hammer.

“We always get a few guys in there, especially the carpenters, they come out,” Oelke said. “And there’s some women who swing a pretty mean hammer.”


The stein holding contest — a simple test of who can hold a glass of beer straight out in front of them the longest — begins at 3:30 p.m.

“We always get a lot of people for that,” Oelke said, noting it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Then there’s the live music. The Rod Cerar Orchestra from Minneapolis is set to play a mix of polka, as well as country, pop, big band and 1950s tunes from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then, from 4 to 8 p.m., Malek’s Fishermen Band returns to Lakefield’s Oktoberfest for the third time to play a wide array of dance music, including traditional polkas, waltzes, two-steps, schottisches and more.

“A lot of people just sit there and listen and enjoy, but there are quite a few who do dance,” Oelke said.

From 8:15 to 9 p.m., the event closes with a raffle drawing, featuring a wide variety of prizes donated by area businesses, including a gas grill, tools, rounds of golf, gift certificates for restaurants in the area, shopping sprees and more.

A complete schedule of events is available at the Oktoberfest Lakefield, MN Facebook page.

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

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