by HANNAH BROADBENT
This year marked the 156th year of Norwood Young America’s Stiftungsfest, another year of being Minnesota’s oldest consecutive festival.
There were many changes this year, organizers said the changes were necessary to preserve the festival. For the first time ever the celebration started with an opening ceremony, which consisted of a Stiftungsfest Beer tapping, brewed locally by Lazy Loon Lanes. New carnival rides for kids were also there along main street and the heritage display was inside the Willkommen Heritage Center. New this year was a heritage tour that stopped at 20 sites around NYA. The committee chose to forgo fireworks this year due to low attendance as found by a survey.
Though most classics were still there, like the German Dinner, car show, softball tournament and bingo.
President of Stiftungsfest Paul Lano said they estimated about 8,000 to 10,000 visitors over the weekend. Though attendance was low on Saturday due to rocky weather.
“We had 20 years of perfect weather, we were due – you just got to put up with it sometimes,” he said.
Annette Leiferman from Mayer attended for her first time despite the weather, her and her husband went for the Johnny Holm Band and brought their daughter Taylor, for all the kids amenities.
“These events are important to get your sense of community and to get all the people together,” she said.
Lano agrees, he has lived in NYA all his life and said he can remember every year he has been to to the festival. He said he remembers heading to the festival as a kid and eating the beef dinner and can still hear the polka music. Lano says they’ve changed it up a little bit for the younger generations.
“People want to be proud of their towns and this is a family reunion, school reunion,” Lano said. “Everyone comes back for this weekend and they want to be here.”
LaVonne Kroells has been on the committee since 2005 when she was the Mayor of NYA. She said organizing the festival grows on you.
“You always want things for the community so that it excels in it’s presentation to visitors and that everyone has a good time and a safe time,” Kroells said.
She said Stiftungsfest being one of the oldest consecutive festivals adds to the enormity of the event and makes the community feel even more special. She said NYA has a lot of new and young residents as well, so the celebration is a good way to meet new people. She said she hopes those people come out and feel apart of their community.
“It brings the community together, you get to see your neighbors and interact with strangers,” she said. “It’s just the communication and knowing how they enjoy the activities.”
Lano said at it’s core, the festival is still a fundraiser for the fire department. Stiftungsfest and the NYA prevention Calendars are the only fundraisers the department has each year. He said the way of doing it, is the bonus.
“When you see the people and the smile on their faces – it’s worth it,” Lano said. “We want to keep the culture alive.”