Canada’s Greatest Bavarian Festival October 11–19, 2013
It started as a small celebration at a Kitchener German Club in the late sixties. The captains of industry in a small city with a large German population wanted to create something that would promote tourism. Fast forward to today, and Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest, now celebrating its 45th anniversary, is known the world-over as the largest Oktoberfest event in North America and the 3rd most recognizable festival in Canada. The cities hosting the event have come to represent the same mix of innovation and tradition that is evident in their favourite festival, which runs for nine days (Oct. 11–19, 2013) and welcomes over 700,000 of their closest friends.
Today the festival includes 19 authentic Bavarian Festhallen in venues across Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, all of them featuring live polka music, piping hot schnitzel, Bavarian dancers in all their dirndl-twirling glory and of course, ice cold beer. The festival’s revered Goodwill Ambassador Onkel Hans is to the Spirit of Gemuetlichkeit what Santa Claus is to ‘that other holiday’. Just to make sure everyone can enjoy the activities and get home safely, festival organizers and sponsor Molson Coors Canada fund free public transportation after 10pm on both weekends of the festival. This along with free Pepsi products for designated drivers at the festhallen and a new partnership with Over The Limit (who drive you and your car home after a night of festing), all point to the festival’s unwavering commitment to the Responsible Choices message.
While the festhallen may have a lot of the action, there’s more to this Bavarian fun-fest than the schnapps bar (although with some festhallen welcoming up to 4,000 people a night, it’s a sight you won’t find often this side of the Atlantic). The Oktoberfest Thanksgiving Day Parade is the largest Thanksgiving Day Parade in the country, welcoming over 150,000 spectators along the 5km route. There are over 40 family & cultural events, including such family favourites as the Oktoberfest Family Pancake Breakfast (serving up a free breakfast to over 10,000 people each year), the Great Oktoberfest Barrel Race, the A Blooming Affair Fashion Show, the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest 5k Fun Run (which races down the parade route in front of thousands of spectators), and even the Oktoberfest Car Show. In recent years festival organizers have added events outside the nine festival days, including a 100km cycle race called the Tour de Hans, and Stein & Dine, a unique Oktoberfest culinary experience which connects Bavarian inspired fine dining with beer pairings, both of which take place in September.
Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest takes place October 11 – 19, 2013.The innovation that it takes to keep the festival relevant and vibrant after 45 years, fluctuating support from corporate sponsors and the changing demographic of the local population, is balanced with a deep respect for the traditions which make the festival unique. Upon arrival in Kitchener-Waterloo you’ll notice bare knees and heaving bosoms, as the locals sport their traditional tracht (lederhosen for men and dirndl for women) and the hats, feathers, pins and cowbells are as plentiful as the smartphones. Traditional German steins, accordion music and the occasional yodeller complete what is definitely one of the most unique festival experiences in the country.
Visit Oktoberfest.ca for information & tickets.