Keeping the Legacy
Even though our early ancestors may have left their homeland behind, they did not leave behind the traditions they grew up with in their native Germany. Today, more than 125 years after the city of Manning was founded, that German influence can be felt simply by driving down the cobblestone-lined Main Street and looking at the many businesses that have used Bavarian themes to accent their store front. Those early German traditions still continue today through annual festivals such as Kinderfest and Weihnachtsfest.
Kinderfest, an occasion almost as old as the town itself, is a family oriented event that focuses on celebrating youth. First termed “Kinderball,” then “Children’s Days,” and now called “Kinderfest”, to pay tribute to its German beginnings, the custom was started by residents of Manning who wished to keep alive some of the traditions of Germany. This tradition, which is held annually during the month of June, is believed to be one of the longest-running celebrations in the state of Iowa. Each year it kicks off with a parade of children who march down Manning’s cobblestone Main Street. Old-fashioned games, contests and plenty of food greet the kids and their families when the parade is over.
Weihnachtsfest, which began in 1987, is a holiday festival patterned loosely on the Christkindmarkt in Germany. Children are also a focus of this event. They are invited to carry a special light and march down a darkened Main Street. As the parade ushers in the holiday season, it concludes with a special lighting ceremony that illuminates the entire downtown area revealing a magnificent festive display. Weihnachtsfest also includes special marketplaces for holiday shoppers, living window displays, and lots of good old-fashioned hot chocolate, cookies and roasted marshmallows.
These festivals are just two examples of how the Manning Heritage Foundation works to celebrate and preserve the area’s German cultural heritage and traditions.