Seeing familiar faces at Midwest Polk Fest

HUMBOLDT – Polka means family, whether it’s blood relation or simply folks connected through a shared musical interest.

That’s why, said Becky Livermore of Becky & the Ivanhoe Dutchmen, she and the band have performed at nearly every Midwest Polka Fest held since the weekend of music, food, and dance was first organized 25 years ago.

“I think we may have missed one,” she said. “We’ve been doing it so long now that it’s something we look forward to each year. We get to see all the familiar faces, and it’s just a down-home, friendly event.”

Livermore, of Mount Vernon, will be performing Aug. 30 and 31 on one of the three stages set up for the three day event at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds.

Commonly called “Barefoot Becky” due to her lack of footwear on stage, she plays the accordion and provides the vocals for the five piece band that combines German style polka with Czech music, big band numbers, party anthems and country singles to create a robust and varied playlist.

“We offer just a good mix of music and a lot of fun,” Livermore said.

And what really makes the good time the band provides stick with audience members is the giggle they get from the fact that Livermore always plays barefoot, a habit she developed as a child.

“I didn’t think a lot about it when I took it to the stage, but people really grabbed on to it,” she said. “I grew up on a farm and we always ran around barefoot. My brother and sister hated when I practiced in the house so they would chase me outside and I just got comfortable playing barefoot out there.”

Livermore and has been performing with the Ivanhoe Dutchmen since 1988. They travel throughout the United States though their focus remains on the midwest, particularly Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. They have played a range of venues that include everything from house parties and nightclubs to tents, town festivals, and RV conventions. In 1996, they even performed for the Smithsonian Institution’s Festival of American Folklife in Washington, D.C.

Each Labor Day weekend, though, they return to Humboldt for the Midwest Polk Fest.

“It’s just a fun, lively group of people you get there,” Livermore said. “You see a little bit of everything, from young families with children to the newly retired looking for exercise and socializing to the older folks who like to reminisce.”

Joining Barefoot Becky & the Ivanhoe Dutchmen at the festival will be bands that include Wisconsin-based groups the Top Notchmen, Karl & the Country Dutchmen, Brian & the Mississippi Valley Dutchmen, Jim Busta Band & Karl, and Kenny Brandt, as well as Minnesota-based the Wendinger Band and Kris Keltgen & the Riverbend Dutchmen.

Additionally, a polk mass will be conducted at 10 a.m. Aug. 31 by Jim Busta Band & Karl and breakfast will be served from 8 to 11:30 a.m. by the Lions Club. Camping sites at the fairgrounds will be available for $12 per day with Aug. 31 free. Electrical sites will be available until filled.