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Cold no barrier to Oktoberfest celebration

10/7/2012

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

For the second year in a row, overcast skies and chilly, rainy weather greeted parade watchers.

Onlookers were bundled up in coats and wearing knit caps as Fort Hays State University's homecoming parade made its way down Main Street. The temperature at parade time was 41 degrees, with a wind chill of 35, and a light rain was falling.

That wasn't enough to keep Glenn Staab away. Sick all week with the flu, Staab still kept his streak alive of never missing an Oktoberfest on Friday, and he was there for the parade Saturday, wearing just a light jacket.

Ever since his kids stopped being in the parade, Staab enjoys them more. No more dropping them off and picking them up.

"My wife and I love going," he said.

It was just as cold for the 40th Oktoberfest celebration Friday at Frontier Park. Temperatures hovered in the mid-40s, with a wind chill in the mid-30s. A light rain fell briefly around noon.

After the traditional opening to Oktoberfest Friday morning, there was a mix of the usual and unusual to the event celebrating the county's Volga German heritage.

The usual was the wide array of German food, from bierocks to brats to galuskies to you name it. And, of course, there was the beer.

Tom Haas, a member of the Ellis County Volga-German Society, was asked to give the traditional opening welcome, which is spoken in German. Friday was the first time he had given the welcoming speech, and Haas elicited some laughter from the crowd -- for those who could understand German.

"Of course, I was born and raised in a German family, so they asked me to come and do this today," Haas said. "I told them I would be honored to do that."

After the keg was tapped to officially open Oktoberfest, Haas had a cold beer in hand after the opening ceremony, despite the chilly weather.

That wasn't ideal for two unusual sights -- sno-cones for sale and a dunk tank.

Cody Martin, a Fort Hays State University freshman from Tonganoxie, gamely was waiting to be dunked in the dunk tank Friday morning. He is part of Delta Tau Omega, the criminal justice club at FHSU.

"Just one of those things," he said of being dunked. "Someone's got to do it, so why not?"

Margie Rolfs, Hays, looked on and couldn't believe her eyes when she saw Martin hit the water on two straight throws.

"Man, they ought to be giving him $20 a shot on that, geez," she said. "Man, it's cold out here."

Not cold enough to prevent Isaac Broeckelman from buying a sno-cone at the Fringe Theater Company booth.

"I figured a real man will eat a sno-cone no matter what the weather is," said Broeckelman, a Hays junior at FHSU.

Perrell Stanley, who was helping man the sno-cone booth for the FHSU student organization, took the cool -- OK, cold -- weather in stride. As in theater, the show must go on.

"I look at it this way: If I'm crazy enough to sell sno-cones in 45-degree weather, there's got to be somebody crazy enough -- or drunk enough -- to buy a sno-cone in 45-degree weather," said Stanley, a Fort Hays student from Norton.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, Stanley figured. It could just as easily have been 90 degrees Friday, and he would have looked like a genius.

"If you go the safe route, then you're just going to stay safe," he said. "If you go the crazy route, something awesome might happen.

"I have sold sno-cones, so we're doing all right."

Haas, 68, was born and raised in Antonino in a family of eight boys and six girls. Now living in Hays, he travels throughout Kansas and Nebraska selling tires.

Haas' wish is to keep alive the Volga German heritage celebrated this weekend.

"It's so important to me," he said. "If you don't keep it going, it's going to end. The polka dances, everything, if we don't keep it going, if you don't use it, you're going to lose it."