The 1992 Octoberfest cast signs Goodnight, Irene, which has become a longstanding closing number and tradition.
An Oldie But Goodie
Before starting your freshman year at Timothy, your closet must contain at least one of the following items: a tutu (especially if you’re a boy), a men’s tie (especially if you’re a girl), suspenders, leggings from the 80’s, a full length feather boa, or at the very minimum —neon basketball shorts.
No, this is not a dress code intended to embarrass the freshman; it’s the dress code for the Timothy tradition known as Octoberfest.
Picture this: The whole Timothy community watching nearly the entire high school faculty and student body dressed in all of the above and more, dancing and screaming off-key to more than thirty different songs all tied together by one theme. It opens with a Timothy spoof of “The Muppet Show Theme” and ends with the entire school waving glow sticks in the aisles and absolutely wailing the lyrics to the song “Goodnight, Irene.” The show features upperclassmen boys slipping and falling on purpose on their way off the stage, the AP math and science teachers dressed in full-body crocodile costumes, and — without a doubt, the highlight of the night — two of the longest-serving teachers at the school (Mr. Roelofs and Mr. Snoeyink) fully-costumed and singing an oldie but a goodie with completely straight faces.
But that’s what makes it awesome.
Ever since I was one of the little kids crowded around the rim of the stage, sticking my hand out in hopes of a high schooler giving me a high-five, I wanted to be a part of Octoberfest. The current grade schoolers feel that way too.
“I like it because it’s funny,” a sixth-grader said. “The high schoolers are really creative in what they do.”
Her classmate agreed, “All ages can laugh at it.”
And they have been — for 42 years.
Octoberfest was started in 1977 by the English, Latin, and photography teacher, John Harkema, who was also the inventor of fine arts week and the planter of every tree at our school (which is an official arboretum). He and a group of students with whom he connected — lovingly known as Harkemites — came up (somehow) with the idea that a group of high schoolers and some faculty in silly costumes should perform dances to kids songs in front of a small audience in the gym. They had tables set up in place of the bleachers where the guests could watch the show and be served apple cider at intermission, like a kind of deranged, intimate dinner party. There were only a few groups who performed songs.
The whole event which entails about twenty song and dance numbers all connected by one theme, an elaborately painted backdrop is run by high school students. It takes over 50 hours of preparation for the co-chairs, which includes planning meetings over the summer, practices, and a lot of goofing around.
Despite those odds, every year, the high schoolers manage to pull it together and make a ridiculous, creative, slap-happy show that brings the entire Timothy community together.