With blast-furnace conditions finally ceding to cooler temperatures, those in the Hays area know what is on the horizon: Oktoberfest.

Ellis County’s biggest autumn tourism event, which is coupled with Fort Hays State University’s Homecoming weekend, is a huge reunion of individuals for whom Hays is near and dear. Oktoberfest, which will be Oct. 2, is the boisterous celebration of the area’s Volga-German heritage that kicks off a fun- and activity-filled long weekend.

This year’s event, while maintaining most of the traditions people have come to expect, will feature a few changes. All are for the positive, although we predict 2015 will be remembered as the year Oktoberfest began its transformation into an entirely different affair.

New this year:

• Having to purchase a wristband that allows one to drink adult beverages. Oktoberfest is a fund-raiser for the Volga-German Society. In order at least to cover overhead costs, the group depends on good weather, good crowds, and good beer sales. And, as society President Nick Werth said: “The last three out of four years, weather’s been terrible. So it’s been a disaster financially.” Attendees wishing to imbibe will be charged $2 for the wristband.

• Having a drive-through available for food. How great is that? There is a sizable contingent of Oktoberfest-goers who do so just for the authentic German cuisine and other tasty treats. There will be a food tent set up right on Main Street where pre-ordered food can be picked up without having to get out of one’s car. Call (785) 639-7687 or 639-7688 to place an order.

• Not having FHSU’s president ceremoniously tap the first keg. Second-year President Mirta Martin has respectfully declined to continue this tradition. Citing concerns with the high number of alcohol-related deaths on college campuses throughout the country, and also noting Oktoberfest is not a university function, Martin will take a pass. As she put it in an interview with The Hays Daily News last week: “I will honor the German traditions, its wonderful people and its rich heritage. I just do not believe that tapping a keg is something that I, in my role as president, should be doing.” The same person promoting programs of distinction at FHSU is a person of distinction. Good for you.

• Moving the Oktoberfest site north of the dike. The reinforcements to the levee resulted in the loss of two access points to the traditional location. Additionally, the electrical system behind the dike would need replacing — and the costs are prohibitive to the society. One consequence of the move will be the exposure of the crowd to anybody driving down Main Street. We have a feeling this will have a calming effect on the mid- to late-afternoon revelry.

That last change will be the biggest. While it likely will resolve a long-standing complaint from critics, it might at the same time remove one of the best features of the day for enthusiasts. We’ll see.

“We want to keep the tradition of Oktoberfest moving forward,” Werth said.

We wish the Volga-German Society well in this pursuit. If Oktoberfest can survive the transformation of 2015, it will be able to handle anything.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry


Patrick Lowry is editor and publisher of The Hays Daily News.?