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Fest has 'em dancing in the street

DURANT -- As many as 7,000 people line Main Street for the Durant Polka Fest -- the weekend after Labor Day.

``People from Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin make the trip to participate in the fest,'' Polka Fest president Roger Braun said. ``Ours is the largest fest and some have said that it's the best.''

The festival, which noted its 25th year last fall, started out of the question, ``Why not?

``A group of people who went to a polka fest in Minnesota came back to Iowa and wondered why they couldn't have one here,'' Mr. Braun said. ``It was a sudden thing -- some bands were hired and it just took off from there.

``Many volunteers help with laying out four wooden dance floors and setting up four huge tents to cover them,'' Mr. Braun said. The fest starts at 5:30 p.m. and lasts 'til 12:30 a.m. Another session begins at noon Saturday, with festivities winding up at midnight.

Thirteen bands play music ranging from country and western to waltzes, the fox trot and polka. ``Some of the bands are a fixture at our fest,'' Mr. Braun said. ``One band has played for the fest for 25 years.''

Groups like the Music Boosters, Boy Scouts and Lutheran Church set up boothes in the park across the street and sell food and spirits celebrating the rich ethnic history of polka. German potato salad, bratwursts, sauerkraut and German chocolate cake are served along with popcorn, pizza and apple fritters.

``It's amazing how many people follow these fests and how popular they are,'' Mr. Braun said, noting that fests are continuously going on throughout the year across the county.

``Many retired citizens are involved with the fests and start traveling to them in late summer through early fall,'' Mr. Braun said. With indoor as well as outdoor fests, Mr. Braun said there always is one going on somewhere.

-- By Elizabeth Trego (February 2, 1998)

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