Welcome back, Oktoberfest!


Each October, Hays plays host to a longstanding, Ellis County tradition: Oktoberfest.

According to Janel Moore, the Historian of the Oktoberfest Board, the festival began in 1942 when two Fort Hays State professors wanted to showcase the area’s Volga German heritage.

“[They wanted] to show Volga German culture and bring the little towns together,” Moore said.

For this reason, visitors to the festival can find mountains of bierocks, or German stuffed rolls. Scholarships are also given to local college students of Volga German descent.

During this time, visitors can also learn the history of the area, including its first settlers, through the Ellis County Historical Society

Oktoberfest has grown since its inception nearly 80 years ago. It now serves another important purpose to Hays-area organizations.

“It’s one of the bigger ways to raise money,” Moore said.

Because of this FHSU student organizations, high school clubs and town organizations, such as the Kiwanis, set up tables selling snacks, water and other wares.

When Oktoberfest began, however, it didn’t include this variety of participants.

“When the little towns couldn’t help [with Oktoberfest], FHSU stepped in,” Moore said.

The festival continued to grow, though the purpose of Oktoberfest remained to celebrate the culture of the Hays-area settlers.

To match its history of change, Oktoberfest will feature new events this year. This includes a stein holding competition as well as the Deutsch Hop, in which participants will compete in an agility course while carrying steins full of beer.

This year, Oktoberfest will also take place over two days rather than the typical one day.

According to Moore, extending the festival to two days was done with the hope of incorporating more family-friendly events. Children can now look forward to Clydesdale horses and bouncy castles during the weekend.

Oktoberfest will be held October 11 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. It begins at 7:30 a.m. on October 12 with the German Market in Downtown Hays and closes at 4 p.m.
More information about the festival, including the schedule of events, can be found on the Oktoberfest website.

Sound Off!