The Augustana Chaplaincy hosted its fourth annual Oktoberfest on Saturday, September 21st, 2019 at the Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Performing Arts Centre, during Alumni Weekend. They served a German meal with a sampling of local craft beers, and mead; the evening also featured an Alumni Polka Band. I spoke with Rev. Craig Wentland, Sarah Smith, who is Assistant for Chaplaincy, and student chaplain Kylie Peake about Oktoberfest. They shared details of the event from their experience, and explained why Chaplaincy decided to have Oktoberfest, how they view this event, and what they think the benefits of having Oktoberfest at Augustana are.

There was a lot of detail and preparation that went into Oktoberfest; everything was well organized, from the costumes to the menu to the Polka Band that ended the evening. Wentland was able to share some history of Oktoberfest at Augustana: he explained that it all started five years ago. “We decided we wanted an event that would feature local food…we came up with the idea of an Oktoberfest featuring local craft beer and mead. And we decided to host it in conjunction with Alumni Weekend.” Wentland said that Chaplaincy decided to have Oktoberfest as “…a way for Chaplaincy to connect with Alumni.” The event brings people together, builds community, and creates opportunity for Alumni to interact with students and connect with the Augustana Chaplaincy.
Smith explained further: “Oktoberfest is what we call a friend-raiser…we often get the question of, ‘Does Chaplaincy still exist? What do you do? How do we relate to you?’ So with Craig and our Chaplaincy oversight counsel, we said, ‘well, what if we do something silly here?’ You know, a lot of people are into craft beer, and we knew some Alumni who were starting to have their own little brewery businesses and so we worked with some of them…”.
At Oktoberfest they served four taps, Oktoberfest Marzen from the Norsemen Inn Camrose, Irish Red ale from Sea Change Brewing Co. in Edmonton, Vienna Lager from Bent Stick Brewing Co. in Edmonton, and Mr. Pink mead from Fallen Timber Meadery in Alberta. Wentland contacted Alumni who started their own Brewery: “We chose a Vienna lager, from Bent Stick up in Edmonton; we have two Alumni who work up at Bent Stick, Cole Boyd and Ben Rix. This is something you can do with a liberal arts degree, is you can start your own micro brewery. Why not?” The Chaplaincy believes in supporting local and staying connected with Alumni, so they chose an Edmonton brewery started by Augustana Alumni.
Stinson’s Catering from Armena provided the meal. The Oktoberfest menu included: Schweinebraten (Pork roast Bavarian Style), Rotkohl (Braised Red Cabbage), hot German potato salad, Gurkensalat (German cucumber salad), and Apfelkuchen (German Apple Cake) for dessert. There were many silent auction-bidding sheets at the event; these were meant to encourage community involvement in the fundraiser. There were bidding sheets for homemade sauerkraut, a beer-making workshop, a sausage-making workshop, a fresh-baked obsttorte (fresh fruit torte), a schwarzwälerkirschtorte (black forest cake), and a black forest gelato cake. There were also bidding sheets for ‘We’ll Be Your Guest’ where you could bid on a pair of student chaplains. The event presented an opportunity for Chaplaincy to connect with Alumni, Augustana, and the community.

At the event the student chaplains
dressed up in festive costumes.
Student chaplains contributed a lot
to the experience of Oktoberfest
through their involvement and
excitement around being part of the
event. Smith says that Oktoberfest
is also an opportunity for students
to get involved: “Students are not
students forever, and they become
Alumni, too.” Smith enjoyed seeing
students and Alumni connect at
Oktoberfest: “I love seeing our
older supporters too, they are a blast.
Sometimes people think of our older
generation as boring…many of the
students probably don’t think they
have much in common with these
seniors, but when they actually
got to talking with them… they
are great!” Student involvement in
the event builds community and
promotes interaction with Alumni.

A lot of people consider the
Chaplaincy to be more Conservative.
When I asked Wentland for his
thoughts on that, he disagreed:
“Chaplaincy is not a particularly
conservative organization. I think
that is a tired narrative of Christians
being conservative and chaplaincy
being conservative, and we need to
break out of that.” Oktoberfest is
known for lots of beer drinking and
being a big party. Smith described
how the Chaplaincy views this
event: “Yes, it is about beer, and
having a good time! We are really
about community, so it is great to be
able to have a beer with somebody.
If there are some great discussions
to be had, sometimes beer gets
involved. We are not shy about it; we
are not a super reserved group…” It
is all about socializing and having
a good time, and it also allows for
Chaplaincy to connect with campus.

Oktoberfest is a nice social
evening, and a fun way to start
the year. It is a great chance for
current students to try and get
involved in this new network of
people. The greatest benefit of
having Oktoberfest at Augustana
is the sense of community.

(Originally published September 27, 2019)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s