Editor-in-Chief Sophia Brousset reviews the iconic St Andrews Charity Oktoberfest (held, as ever, in March...)
There was a palpable excitement emanating on Market Street the morning of March 11. Comparable only to the sense of impending bacchanalia felt on the Sunday morning of Raisin, students clad in all manner of Bavarian dress geared up for the highly-anticipated 16th annual St Andrews Charity Oktoberfest.
A key event on the St Andrean events calendar, the event is held in support of Tayside Children with Cancer and Leukaemia (TCCL). The charity funds a holiday home in St Andrews available free of charge to families affected by childhood cancer and leukaemia. Past donations have allowed TCCL to build and refurbish a lodge in St Andrews as well as cover the yearly costs for around 30 families. Last year, the event donated £20,000 to the charity with the remaining £10,000 going to The Tablekotchic Charity Foundation, a Ukraine-based charity providing assistance to children with cancer in Ukraine.
Having never previously attended Oktoberfest myself, I immediately understood the fanfare on my arrival to Kinkell Byre at noon. The event had an amusement park feel to it with German folk music echoing around the barn and Bavarian bunting colourful drapery adorning the venue. Not my particular choice of entertainment following one too many drinks, I was nonetheless excited to see a carnival ride set up outside as well.
The early start time greatly contributed to my enjoyment of the event and my general appreciation of its steep price tag — starting around noon and lasting until 8pm, the event provides much greater bang-for-your-buck temporally-speaking, in comparison to 10pm start and 2am departure of other St Andrews events.
A testament to the boisterous nature of the event, Oktoberfest is currently on its second strike from Fife Council — should they receive a third one, event coordinators have been warned they will be forced to cease-and-desist. As such, the committee reminded attendees of their obligation to behave properly.
Working under a cash-only token system, guests were certainly encouraged to pace themselves while quaffing down Maßs of beer. Comically large when compared to the pints one is typically used to, the £6 steins certainly added to the Bavarian atmosphere and became a staple accessory for any Dirndl-wearers Instagram story.
While I did nurse a stein of my own, my animosity towards the yeasty horror that is beer (along with my cashless pockets) stopped me from having more than one. Thankfully, the event stunningly provided a bar that both accepted card and offered cider, my personal preference. Prost, indeed!
There were several food options available from traditional German pretzels to pizza vans. These helped the cause of lining our beer-filled bellies. It also provided a much needed energy source as attendees danced tirelessly along to the tunes of a live band. An absolute joy and a welcome change from the typical DJ sets of the St Andrews events scene, I thoroughly enjoyed swinging along with friends.
All this said, it is the absolute joy I got out of the event that induces my largest gripe with it — the strain of procuring a ticket. Working on a raffle system, aspiring tableheads must complete an in-person sign-up for the chance to be offered a ticket. Should they be so lucky as to be picked, themselves and nine friends are then able to purchase a ticket (which is then held onto with a firm grip). Resales on Facebook are notoriously rare, meaning if neither you nor a close pal were successful in the raffle, it is pretty unlikely you will be able to score a ticket. Had I not been so lucky to have gone on a press pass, chances are I would not have had the pleasure of attending the event at all.
This hurdle of even being allowed the chance to pay for a ticket is then followed by the even weightier issue of price — the £56 ticket is no bargain especially considering nothing supplementary is included in the price of the ticket. Tack on that the price of costume for the event, with the average Amazon-listed Dirndl priced at around 40 pounds, the average uni student may find this cost difficult to justify. This in mind, event proceeds go to Oktoberfest’s weighty £20,000 annual donation to TCCL, an exceptional local cause.
Ultimately, I found Oktoberfest to live up, perhaps even go beyond, the hype around it. With proceeds funding a cause they should certainly be proud to support, the committee brought me exhilarating live entertainment, a jubilant atmosphere, and a taste of Bavaria I will certainly be savouring.
Photos: Samuel Eszenyi and Agnes Keefe (St Andrews Charity Oktoberfest Facebook)