When you think about the annual Ames Main Street Oktoberfest, it’s hard not to hear polka music chiming in your head. This year will be no different, with three Iowa polka bands on the schedule. One of those bands, Barefoot Becky and the Ivanhoe Dutchmen, is known all over the United States not only for their amazing music, but also for naked toes!
Becky Livermore fell in love with polka music before she could even walk. Becky's mom and dad took the family to polka dances in Swisher, Iowa and would carry the kids around the dance floor until they were old enough to walk. While Becky loved to dance, there was something else about polka she just couldn’t resist.
“I loved the accordion,” Becky said. “My Aunt had one in her closet and I would beg her to play it. Unfortunately, she really couldn’t play it. That was the same instrument I used when I started taking lessons.”
That first lesson came in in 1980, when she was ten years old with an elderly neighbor who only charged a dollar for each lesson. Becky would practice for hours every day.
“Sometimes I would go outside to get away from my brother and sister's complaining,” Becky said. “As kids, we rarely wore shoes around the farm. It just seemed second nature to go everywhere and do everything barefoot. Why should playing the accordion be any different?”
They had a good friend that lived down the road who ran a polka band. Becky said she would always go over to his house and play for him and tell him she wanted to play in his band.
“He kept saying, ‘When you get good enough you can,’" Becky said. “When I was 12, I played my first job with Ed Ulch and The Jolly Bohemians from Solon, Iowa.”
In 1988, when she was still a senior in high school, Becky took over Ed’s music library when he was ready to retire. She also had a couple of dance jobs lined up that Ed previously booked.
“This was great, but I had no vehicle, no sound system, and no players,” Becky said.
Luckily, Becky had gotten to know and become good friends with, many musicians. Ed let her use his sound system and her dad's boss sold her his van. Barefoot Becky and the Ivanhoe Dutchmen have been playing together ever since. And yes, she really does play every show barefooted.
You can see Becky at the Ames Main Street Oktoberfest presented by First National Bank and sponsored by Workiva, Saturday, October 22 in downtown Ames. Oktoberfest will feature live polka music from Second Chair Brass, Bill Koncar, Barefoot Becky and the Ivanhoe Dutchmen, and classic rock-n-roll from Burnin’ Sensations. There will also be a beer sampling event, German food vendors, and Gutentag games.
Tickets are $10 and $25 (includes beer sampling) at the gate, but you can get a $5 discoTunt by buying early online at www.AmesDowntown.org.