By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
If it's one thing Nick Werth learned about Oktoberfest from his father, it was the importance of tradition.
So Werth vows to carry on long-standing traditions, while adding some new ones at the same time, in memory of his dad.
Larry Werth, one of the original organizers of the Hays Oktoberfest, died in March, and his son is glad he started tagging along with his dad as a youngster.
"I've been involved with it my whole life," said Nick Werth, now in his 40s. "Dad would get me out of school to help; I was their errand boy. So I guess I kind of inherited Oktoberfest."
The younger Werth, now president of the Volga-German Society, is one of those in charge of the annual event in Frontier Park that celebrates the Volga-German Heritage.
Booths and vendors will open at 9 a.m. Friday, and keeping with tradition, Oktoberfest will feature opening ceremonies at 11 a.m., followed by the tapping of the keg at 11:30 by the Fort Hays State University president.
For the first time since the late 1980s, that will be someone different. Mirta Martin took over as president at FHSU in July, succeeding Edward Hammond, who stepped down after 27 years at the helm.
During the tapping, a series of bells will be rung, alerting the booths Oktoberfest has officially begun.
"We wanted to start something new," said Werth, who added booths also will have for sale memorabilia brass bells with the year 2014 inscribed on them.
Also new this year will be a booth displaying a map of the Volga and other heritage items from the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, which is hosting its Kansas Round-Up on Saturday in Hays.
Two years ago, the Ellis County Historical Society and Eagle Communications combined to form the "Honor Our Heritage" event, a family-friendly, alcohol-free area geared for children. There will be a petting zoo and miniature horse rides for youngsters, as well as horse wagon rides for kids of all ages.
Attendees will be able to listen to traditional music beginning at 10:30 a.m. Then at 2:30, local impersonator Frankie Werth will present the "Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist," followed by the 1980s band "Paramount."
There will be numerous demonstrations, including goat milking, saddle making and soap making. There will be a petting zoo and miniature horse rides for youngsters, as well as horse wagon rides.