October is here, and that means the events we usually associate with the tenth month of the year – harvesting, Thanksgiving, Oktoberfest and Halloween – should be too.
Normally, getting harvest completed makes farmers work up a great thirst. Oktoberfest is the perfect occasion to indulge in some finely brewed hops and a little polka on the dance floor.
But not this year.
For 20 years, the German Heritage Society of Humboldt and District (GHSHD) has been hosting Oktoberfest in Humboldt. It has become a tradition here as it has in many other cities and towns worldwide.
John Saxinger, president of the GHSHD, says the society decided to take a year off for various reasons.
“We decided for financial reasons not to go ahead with the usual plans for Oktoberfest,” said Saxinger.
One of the problems, Saxinger noted, is that the event has been losing money for the past few years.
“There has been a decline in numbers over the past few years, and in the end, we’re not covering out costs,” Saxinger said. “Having the event fall in October is sometimes difficult for the farmers if harvest is not finished yet, and that can affect our numbers.”
The question of the timeline with regard to harvesting may be one cause, but there is another problem that is putting a cog in the works. The club needs people of a younger age group to join up, Saxinger says, and he admits that he doesn’t know if the club can keep the event going without some fresh blood to help with the organization.
Asked whether the City would consider adding Oktoberfest to its list of community events, the City’s director of Community Development and Communications Kerri Martin said no.
“Just because an event doesn’t get put on doesn’t mean the City can take it on,” said Martin. “The City is not in a position to do it at this time of year. We are at the end of our budget cycle, and all of our funds have been allocated.”
There are also differences of opinion over the type of music that an Oktoberfest crowd wants to hear today. The club’s president says that one year the club tried having two bands, one for the traditional German “oom-pah-pah” style of music, and another for those who wanted a different kind of dance music. That, he said, didn’t work out very well.
Martin says that events such as Oktoberfest generally work better when they are run by an organization instead of the city.
“If they are run by the volunteers of an organization,” Martin said, “then the event becomes a fundraiser for them and that is one way to bring in some money.”
Saxinger says it has come to a point where there needs to be some rethinking done about the whole event.
The popularity of Humboldt’s Oktoberfest extends province-wide. In the past, people have been coming from miles around – some as far away as Yorkton or Lloydminster – for Humboldt’s Oktoberfest.
“We don’t want to see the tradition die,” Saxinger said. “The club would definitely like to see it happen again.”