by Katherine Buikema, Class of 2020
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 ’80s, 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 crammed into the Huizenga auditorium 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 at least twelve twelve 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,” said Izzy, a sixth-grader. “The high schoolers are really creative in what they do.”
Her classmate, Matthew, 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. According to Mac Weiner, the Bible teacher at Timothy and current Octoberfest supervisor, “It started small, but over time it just grew and grew to become a very cherished Timothy Christian community event.”
Although Wiener and one other teacher (this year, Mrs. Tornow) supervise, the whole event which entails about twenty song and dance numbers all connected by one theme, an elaborately painted backdrop, hundreds and hundreds of intermission cookies, a matinee and two full shows, and twenty-five hours worth of practice — is run by six high school students. This year, they are Noah Smith, Hannah Tameling, Sarah Molengraft, Olivia DeJong, Luke Mitchell, and myself. The whole event takes over 50 hours of preparation for the co-chairs, which includes planning meetings over the summer, practices where we teach lyrics and dance moves to our peers, 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. I would bet all four years of my college tuition on my belief that there is nothing else like Octoberfest at any other school in the world.
In the words of sixth grader Anna Stoll, “I love it because it’s an inspiration to see the high schoolers’ funny humor and everyone enjoying themselves.”
This year, that humor will be centered around the theme “Nachtoberfest,” which means all the songs will be about night, including hits like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” and “Rock Around the Clock.” If you’re interested in attending the show (which you should be, I’m definitely not biased), you can get tickets here; performances are on September 20 and 21, and the curtain rises at seven.
Don’t forget your tutu and tie.