It’s Saturday morning…finally. It’s the day you’ve been waiting for all year. All your roommates wake up early and blast “That’s the Way I Like it” by Casey and the Sunshine Band. The first light of the morning peaks over the mountains surrounding the Missoula valley. Students pile into Oldsmobiles and Ford Pintos seven or eight at a time. It’s 1975 and it’s one of the biggest days of the year for University of Montana students, the Aber Day Kegger.
Imagine waking up next weekend to drive to the old K-O rodeo grounds up Miller Creek to join 10,000 other students to drink unlimited beer, smoke “cigarettes”, roll down the grassy hills, dance and listen to musical acts like Mission Mountain Wood Band, Elvis Bishop and even Jimmy Buffet…yes I said Jimmy Buffet.
For eight glorious years, the Aber Day Kegger ran in mid May from 1972-1979. In 1971 the state of Montana changed its drinking age from 21 to 19. This allowed the opportunity for students at the University of Montana to create the Aber Day Kegger: a daylong festival that originally started to raise money during a time the University was going through budget cuts.
The festival stemmed from another tradition brought to the University by a Greek professor, William Aber. Once a year students and faculty would take a day of school off to clean up the campus and plant new trees. From that, the idea was carried on in the 70’s at UM when professor Marty Baker’s social action class challenged students to create community service projects. One student brought up the fact that the library was short on funds, unable to buy new books, and on the verge of losing its accreditation. From that idea, the Aber Day Kegger was born.
Early in the morning close to a thousand kegs were brought to the location of the festival to set up for the day. There were 36 tap stations available with 108 kegs tapped at one time. It was the beer drinker or musical lovers dream of a lifetime: 8 dollars for unlimited beer and great music. The reason the festival is unique is because it was the first of its kind-a keg festival. A fundraiser for the library doesn’t sound too sexy, but the students turned it into one of the greatest festivals the Northwest has ever seen. Nothing like it had ever been seen or will ever be seen again.