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Oktoberfest sets up for family-friendly events




Oktoberfest takes months of planning.

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Oktoberfest takes months of planning.

Local cooks prepare galuskies, bierocks, and green bean dumpling soup, and polka musicians practice familiar tunes.

But before the strains of a polka burst forth or the first beer keg is tapped, crews get to work setting up the stage, tent and other temporary structures Thursday afternoon. The finishing touches come Friday morning before the crowds descend.

This year, a family-friendly event, Honor our Heritage, was added on the north side of the dike.

The historical celebration was organized by Ellis County Historical Society.

"We were asked to partner with the organizations (organizing Oktoberfest) and thought it would be good to have a family-friendly event," said Donald Westfall, ECHS executive director.

"We're happy to see the expansion happen," said Kent Steward, director of university relations at Fort Hays State University.

FHSU was one of the groups involved in starting Oktoberfest in 1973. It takes place on the Friday of FHSU homecoming weekend.

The idea behind the new event was to celebrate the history of the area, not only the Volga-German heritage and ethnic history, but the history of the Old West, including the Fort Hays Historic Site and FHSU's contribution to the community, said Brad Boyer, ECHS board member and one of the organizers.

A 9 a.m. opening ceremony north of the dike kicked off the heritage event featuring educational and entertaining programs, as well as traditional food booths.

Participants could learn about historical crafts and customs and be entertained by well-known historical characters.

Westfall said approximately 200 students from local schools signed up to attend the morning's event on field trips.

Volunteers perform pioneer day chores, such as butter churning, corn shelling, soap making and goat milking. Visitors also can meet some characters from their history books such as Abraham Lincoln.

In the afternoon, several acts were scheduled to perform on stage, including the Boot Hill Players, Hays High School and Thomas More Prep-Marian High School musicians, Wild Bill Hickok and Elizabeth Custer.

A number of organizations, the Hays Arts Council, Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Hays Public Library and Hays Fire Department, also have displays at the event.

"It's the Ellis County Historical Society's effort to bring back the heritage part of it," Steward said.

"The community needs to get back to its roots, and we made a good start," Boyer said.

Also new to this year's Oktoberfest is the addition of Eagle Communications as the event's sole corporate sponsor.