BY: KRAIG PIERCE
Oktoberfest is an event that celebrates the Volga German heritage of Hays, Kansas. First started in 1976, Oktoberfest as brought both locals and outsiders to Hays to appreciate the deep cultural history that made the City of Hays what it is today. Held at Frontier Park on the weekend of September 30th, Oktoberfest offers those that attend an in-depth look at German culture such as its food, music, dancing and crafts. Another attraction that brings people to Oktoberfest is its beer. As a matter of fact, the annual keg tapping is what announces the beginning of the event. It is the “encouragement” of indulging in alcoholic beverages that inspired staff of Fort Hays State University to try to disassociate itself with the event as much as possible. It is the University’s attempt to disassociate itself with the event that brings up both interesting and possibly troubling repercussions.
Aside from its food, drinks, and crafts, Oktoberfest is also the host to over 70 booths, which sell items memorializing the event to those in attendance. Many of these booths are hosted by FHSU student organizations, who use the event as a way to sell their themed products while at the same time enjoying the festivities. The university’s disassociation with the event has made it difficult for those student groups to brand their items, due mostly to the fact that Fort Hays State is no longer allowing its Tiger logo or its name on the products. This raises the question of whether or not those in attendance, especially alumni of the university, will be interested in purchasing the products that the groups are selling.
Attending a university is a time in a person’s life that is usually a treasured memory. Fort Hays State University’s tiger mascot and name are a large selling point for items sold at Oktoberfest. Without those aesthetics helping entice those attending to make purchases, the groups are left to rely on witty designs and catchy phrases to sell their products. Though many groups are not worried about the outcome of their product sales, others are wondering if this could cause a loss in much-needed funding. Though more funding is always needed for student groups, the current atmosphere is fiscally bleak. The state of Kansas is currently lowering the amount of funding it is providing to its state-funded universities, with FHSU already losing as much as $1 million. With that taken into account, all that can be done is hope that the funding that the groups have already secured and the group’s product sales at Oktoberfest will be enough to fund the activities and events that the groups hope to hold in the coming months.
Oktoberfest starts tomorrow, September 30th and FHSU Homecoming runs through October 2nd.