St Andrews’ messiest event returned for another year last weekend – expectations were high, but did it live up to the hype?
If you’re confused by the concept of an event that should be taking place in October, preferably somewhere in Germany, happening in March in a small town in northeast Fife, I don’t blame you. But Oktoberfest has been a staple of the university social calendar since 2011, taking over Kinkell Byre in aid of local charities to provide the student population with a taste of Bavaria. This is the weekend when St Andrews is inundated with visitors – friends from home, alumni and significant others all step on to the platform at Leuchars to experience Oktoberfest.
The dress code is like no other event. If you spotted the posts flooding Facebook over the past week, it won’t be a surprise that girls must wear dirndls, and boys lederhosen, often topped off with a traditional felt hat. I have to say it’s a fun (and very welcome) change from the usual black-tie attire, but do keep in mind that you shouldn’t leave organising your Oktoberfest outfit until the week before: Amazon shipping times can be notoriously slow.
Having attended the previous year, I have to say that not much had changed. But why tamper with a tried and tested formula? The one complaint is the ticketing. FIXR is bypassed in favour of a system where you sign up in-person to attend the event, putting your name down as a potential table head in the hopes of being picked. This means that there was the usual Hunger Games-esque scrabble for table spots in the infamous ballot. However, if you’re lucky enough to get a ticket, the anxiety and agitation is all worth it, and makes the event even more exciting.
On stepping into Kinkell, there were the usual offerings of bratwurst and copious amounts of beer, served up in the iconic steins which were slid across the bar to you after handing over one of the committee’s yellow tokens. I was proud to say that unlike last year, I did manage to finish a whole stein despite not being a fan of beer, which is an achievement in itself.
You might ask how so many people can spend the afternoon cooped up in a converted barn, with nothing but beer and silly outfits to entertain them. And, on paper, it sounds like it wouldn’t work. But there’s a band who play traditional German songs, in addition to covering classics like Robbie Williams’s ‘Angels’, the Kings of Leon’s ‘Sex on Fire’ and ‘Highway to Hell’. You can head outside and board a fairground-style ride or treat yourself to pizza fresh from the food truck. Spirits are high, the beer is flowing, and you’ll bump into old friends and make new ones.
Once everyone is packed on to the buses and spirited back to St Andrews, the event doesn’t stop there. You’ll find attendees filling every pub, looking very conspicuous in their German attire, and a plenty of afters to choose from. If you just want to head to bed and sleep the headache off, make sure to wake up early on Sunday morning and plant yourself somewhere on the three streets. It’s always a treat to watch revellers finally make their way back home after twenty-four hours of partying.
Oktoberfest isn’t the cheapest – what with the £56 ticket, which just gets you entry into the event, and dirndls and lederhosen starting at around £25 online, it isn’t for the fainthearted. But it’s one of St Andrews’ most unique (and chaotic) events, and, in my opinion, it’s worth the steep price tag for the atmosphere alone.