Many in the area are ready to soon take part in the highly anticipated Oktoberfest celebration Oct. 2 on the north side of the dike on Main Street in Hays.
The festival features an array of traditional Volga-German activities that participants look forward to year-after-year.
During last year’s event, Fort Hays State University President Mirta M. Martin led the notorious keg-tapping ceremony. But this year, she believed it was important to express why she did not want to take on that role again.
“Oktoberfest is not a university function,” Martin said. “Many of our students use the event as a fundraising opportunity, and they sell their goods, like T-shirts and food.”
Martin said she was thankful to participate in 2014 during her first year as president, but this year, she decided it wasn’t for her.
“She just asked that she didn’t tap the keg this year,” said Nick Werth, president of the Volga-German Society.
“I am thankful for the opportunity; however, I have chosen to very respectfully decline,” she said.
The president said her feelings have nothing to do with the tradition or taking pride in one’s heritage.
“I will honor the German traditions, its wonderful people and its rich heritage,” she said. “I just do not believe that tapping a keg is something that I, in my role as president, should be doing.”
Martin said according to the Bureau of Alcohol, there were more than 1,800 alcohol-related deaths on college campuses last year.
“That’s five deaths per day,” she said. “That is a totally preventable statistic.”
Bob Duffy, coordinator of drug and alcohol awareness at FHSU’s Kelly Center, said he thinks Martin’s feelings regarding the matter should be applauded.
“She’s made a decision that is right with who she is as an individual,” he said. “I think she’s being honest with who she is as a person.”
Duffy said alcohol is a depressant that slows functioning on multiple levels, both physically and psychologically.
Additionally, getting arrested for a DUI usually ends up costing approximately $1,500, which can alter the course of a student’s education, he said.
“It’s one of the reasons that I, personally, never had a student organization earn any money down at Oktoberfest in a fundraising event,” Duffy said. “I’m there for prevention.”
Martin said she believed it would be hypocritical to tell students not to drink and then go out and tap a keg at a public event, so her decision regarding the opportunity stands firm.
“Part of my job as president, and as a mother, is to be a role model and to live my values,” she said. “I’m not in the business of burying my kids, my students.”