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Every year in September and October, right here in the Kitchener Waterloo region, we host one of the most anticipated events of the year, The Kitchener Waterloo Oktoberfest. In fact, our annual festival of beer, brats and brilliant celebrations is the largest and most attended Bavarian culture festival in North America. The big Thanksgiving Day parade is even nationally televised. This year the festival officially runs from October 5-13 2018, but there is the OktoberLICIOUS culinary celebration to look forward to before that as well (more about that in a moment)
However, there are those who might have yet to experience our Oktoberfest and may be wondering just what all of the fuss is about. Just why did we attract no one other than Justin Trudeau to tap the first keg a few years ago? For those folks, here’s a little look at what the whole thing is all about and what you can look forward to this year if you join in the fun.
What is Oktoberfest Anyway?
The first known Oktoberfest was held in Munich, Germany, and it’s a spectacle that continues to this day. That first one occurred when Kronprinz Ludwig, later King Ludwig I married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. To celebrate the occasion the citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates. There were horse races, markets, all kinds of entertainments and lots (and lots) of food and beer. And everyone had so much fun that it was decided that it should become an annual celebration of all things Bavarian, not just of a royal wedding.
As Germans emigrated elsewhere, including into Canada, they brought their love of Oktoberfest with them. Our incarnation began in 1969, organized by a small, but dedicated group of volunteers. Over 40 years later it takes a cast of thousands to stage and is bigger and better than ever. How big? Let’s have a look at some stats:
1. Length of festival: 9 days
2. Visitors: over 750,000
3. Estimated local economic activity generated by Oktoberfest: $21 million
4. Money collected by non-profit organizations during Oktoberfest: $1.5 million
5. Number of non-profit organizations that benefit from Oktoberfest: 50
6. Number of volunteers: 1,780
7. Estimated number of spectators on the Oktoberfest Thanksgiving Day Parade route: 150,000
8. TV viewers nationwide who tune to watch the Oktoberfest parade: 1.8 million
9. Places to sit (in the beer halls): 18,870
10. Number of pretzels consumed: 25,000+
11. Number of sausages consumed: 51,750
12. Number of official keg tappings: 40
13. Price of a 12 oz. beer: $4.75 – $5.75
14. Number of free rides given away by Grand River Transit: 14,000 – 18,000
See what we mean? This thing is big! It’s also a grand local tradition, as this will mark the 50th year the festival has been staged, a very impressive landmark indeed. People from across Ontario (and from even further afield) have come to know and love our Oktoberfest and it’s one of the many things that make the Waterloo Region – and living in it – so special.
So What’s On Offer This Year?
There is so much going on this year, especially as it is the 50th staging! As usual, there will be all kinds of jovial goings-on at the specially staged Festhallen which will buzz with singing, dancing and even drama and comedy (Bavarian style of course) There will be food and drink almost everywhere you turn. There will also be the Miss Oktoberfest Gala Ball and the K-W Oktoberfest Rogers Women of the Year 2016 Presentation to showcase and celebrate the best and brightest of the female population of the region, the Oktoberfest Golf Experience, a sanctioned Pro-Am Golf Classic at Whistle Bear Golf Club and the Tour de Hans cycling races for the athletes among us and the Treasure Hunt – which offers a $3,000 prize to the winner – is lots of fun for everyone. There is also a big 50th-anniversary concert planned and did we mention Tim Horton’s will be giving away free coffee throughout the whole thing? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
The action really starts this year however in September. OktoberLICIOUS is an area-wide food festival that some of the finest of the region’s eateries are participating in. Each participating restaurant ads an OktoberLICIOUS prix fixe menu with special beer pairings to their menu for a three week period, each of them with a Bavarian twist, even at, or so we’re told, the marvelous Lou Dawg’s Southern BBQ in Waterloo.
To get the scoop on everything that will be going on during Oktoberfest, you should visit the official website here. But in the meantime I thought I’d let the festival do the ‘talking’ and share some of my favourite images from Oktoberfests past to help get us all in the mood. Enjoy, and I hope to see you out there sometime soon!