‘Uff Da Fruehling’ event returns — with Swedish cuisine

 Par Holmberg will prepare the food at this year’s “Uff Da Fruehling Fest Lo” at the Charles City Arts Center. (Photo submitted.)
Par Holmberg will prepare the food at this year’s “Uff Da Fruehling Fest Lo” at the Charles City Arts Center. (Photo submitted.)
By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

This year it’s called “Uff Da Fruehling Fest Lo.”

If you’re wondering, “Lo” means “party” in Sweden.

This is the third year the Charles City Arts Center has thrown an “Uff Da Fruehling Festival,” which is a Norwegian-German celebration. The event is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Friday, March 22, at the CCAC.

The event will be both inside and outside the arts center, depending upon the weather. It is a fundraiser for the arts center, and CCAC Director Jacqueline Davidson said the party is now an annual Charles City tradition.

The name “Uff Da Fruehling” comes from the combining of the Norwegian “Uff da” with the German word for spring — “fruehling.” Davidson explained that a good amount of the population in Charles City comes from either a German or Norwegian background.

The event has featured German food, Norwegian desserts, local and imported beer and live polka music, courtesy of the band Polka Proste.

This year, it will also feature a Swedish chef — though not a professional one.

“I am not a chef, but I love cooking, especially celebrating original forgotten tastes,” said Par Holmberg, who will be preparing food at the celebration together with Emily Kiewel, vice-president of the CCAC board.

“My repertoire spans from the old Swedish kitchen to the Laotian kitchen with a lot of funk,” said Holmberg, who is actually a medicinal chemist by training.

He came to Charles City through a career at Cambrex in 2013. Here he found “the love of my life,” Emily, and decided to stay in Iowa.

“He will add some authenticity to it,” Davidson said.  “It won’t just be our regular brats and sauerkraut. it will be something wonderful, I’m sure, so I’m really thrilled about that.”

The cuisine for the festival will include an appetizer of two kinds of Lefse rolls; dried beef with horseradish and lox with sour cream and chopped chives.

The main course will be Choucroute Garnie, which is a world-famous dish from the border of Germany and France that consists of sauerkraut braised in white wine with potatoes, bratwurst, bacon and smoked pork chops. It is spiced with apples, caraway seeds and juniper berries to enhance the flavors.

For dessert, Holberg will offer ”Ingrid’s inkokta päron,” which is pears in a red vinegar syrup — an old Swedish recipe. The pears will be served with ice cream.

Upbeat polka music will accentuate the meal. Polka Proste is a six- or seven-piece polka band made up of local musicians, and the group has been around since 1981.

“Uff da” is a Norwegian expression, literally translated to mean “ouch” or “ouch, then.” The two words are used to express surprise, astonishment, exhaustion, relief and sometimes dismay. “Uff da” can also be used as an alternative for many common obscenities — or pretty much to fill dead air whenever the speaker wants to use it.

Davidson said that when she moved to Charles City there was a small amount of culture shock, as her background is mostly Celtic.

“It was an interesting experience to me, moving here and being among Americans — but there was a little bit of a cultural difference there,” she said. “I thought we should have some kind of festival, like an Oktoberfest. These wonderful German and Norwegian people here take time to celebrate the diversity of everyone else here, but they don’t celebrate themselves.”

She talked with some German and Norwegian friends about it, and ‘Uff Da Fruehling” was born.

Davidson said that since you don’t know around here from one day to the next if it’s going to be warm or cold, the name “Uff Da Fruehling” essentially means “maybe it’s spring, maybe not.”

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