Amana Winterfest

Each year, there is a Winterfest in Iowa celebrated at many different attractions and resorts as well as in cities and smaller communities throughout the state. There's one in Waterloo, and even the State University in Ames sponsors one. Each one of these cold weather seasonal events will showcase Iowa Winterfest attractions that have a connection to the heritage, history, and traditions of the particular region where it is being held.

However, it is the Amana Winterfest that is the most well known and popular of all these events. It is held in January throughout the seven historic villages that comprise the Amana Colonies. Founded in 1855 as a religious communal society, this National Historic Landmark plays an important part in the history of the state. Most of the events at Amana Winterfest also have historical origins and traditions as well as take advantage of the region's cold weather outdoor activities.

One thing the Amana Colonies are known for are the many shops and galleries specializing in local arts and handcrafts, and during the Amana Winterfest they will be open, offering craft pieces that reflect the heritage of the villages. The many dining venues and restaurants also become Iowa Winterfest attractions and offer special menus replicating the traditional recipes of the original immigrants from Germany who first settled here in the mid-nineteenth century. Many of them even hand out free German pastries, pickles, pretzels, and schnitzel samples.

The local wineries also get in the act, sponsoring events at Amana Winterfest such as the all-day Wine Walk. Six different local wineries provide hot, spiced wine and other samplings of their many vintages, including the fruit wines for which the region is known.

You may think that golfing is strictly a warm weather sport, but the local golf courses participate in this Winterfest in Iowa by providing the venues for cross country ski races, sledding, and snowshoe hiking. Other outdoor Iowa Winterfest attractions include an ice sculpting contest and a log sawing competition; a bald eagle watch at one of the wildlife refuges protecting these indigenous birds; a family-style communal dinner; and a "three alarm" chili cookoff at the local fire station. Part of the heritage and history of the Colonies is the establishment in 1934 of Amana Refrigeration, one of the first for-profit businesses. The company sponsors one of the events at Amana Winterfest—the five kilometer run/walk.

Like the Amish, the residents of early Amana were known for their handcrafts, recipes from Germany, and simple lifestyles. Amana Winterfest celebrates these traditions with quilting, knitting, and spinning demonstrations; cookie decorating classes; old-fashioned story-telling sessions; and the culmination of a yearlong beard-growing contest. One of the most popular events at Amana Winterfest is a hotly-fought contest to see who can fling a whole ham the furthest. The thriving Performance Arts Center is open for tours, and free performances are held. The Amana Colonies hotels offer special vacation packages.

The main Iowa Winterfest attractions are the seven historic villages of Amana Colonies, and you won't be disappointed regardless of the time of year you visit. But, the January Winterfest in Iowa is certainly a magical time.

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