After revelers at the 2012 Oktoberfest were greeted with rain and an unexpectedly chilly 40-degree afternoon, organizers and attendees alike are hoping for better weather this year. They just might get their wish.
The forecast for Friday's 41st anniversary edition of Fort Hays State University's signature celebration has a 20-percent chance of precipitation -- and a high of 69. It should make for a pleasant afternoon of eating, drinking and socializing.
Celebrated as part of FHSU's homecoming weekend, Oktoberfest serves as a homecoming of sorts for the entire community. If you see former residents of Hays but once a year, it likely is at this event held in Frontier Park. Even a traveller passing through with no prior knowledge would be lured to south Main Street by the smells of bratwurst, dumplings, bierocks, galuskies, etc. The beer, while not of the Volga German variety, is cold and plentiful.
In addition to the traditional tapping of the keg, there will be polka music, crafts, dancing and numerous opportunities to find souvenirs as well as supporting hard-working student groups and community organizations. An added feature this year will be a concert in the park featuring Paramount, with The Charles Williams Experience warming up.
"Everyone comes and enjoys it," said Nick Werth of the Volga German Society, "and we decided to bring in free entertainment for them."
Oktoberfest is, simply put, a spectacle. And for the second year running, the one-day extravaganza will feature family-friendly entertainment courtesy of the Ellis County Historical Society. The ECHS became a partner along with the Volga German Society, FHSU and the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce last year to ensure enough emphasis was placed on the historical component. The wow factor of the re-enactments, historical figures and demonstrations was dampened by the cold and rain last year, as well as being on the north side of the dike. Friday, the Honor Our Heritage component will be incorporated into the main Oktoberfest area. With USD 489 having an in-service day, the number of children available likely will be diminished. We would hope the historical society does not lose its enthusiasm and that calendars better align next year.
Finally, no mention of the popular Oktoberfest is complete without the regular warning about drinking and driving. Law enforcement will have an increased presence throughout the homecoming weekend to help maximize public safety. If you or somebody you know have one too many, remember that Safe Ride buses will be available to take you home. No questions asked. Just call (785) 621-2580.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry