K-W staple returns

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On Oct. 4, celebrations will officially commence for the 44th annual Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest. More than a beer festival, it includes a fashion show, a five kilometre run for charity, the Thanksgiving Day parade, a treasure hunt and much more.

Oktoberfest finds its origins in Bavaria, Germany.

By royal decree of Prince Ludwig, the festivities were created to celebrate his marriage to Princess Therese of Saxe.

Transplanted into the Kitchener-Waterloo region in 1969, Oktoberfest has become a hallmark of K-W culture and is said to be the largest outside of Germany.

“I’d say it’s a German festival with a K-W twist,” said University of Waterloo (UW) student and K-W local Alyssa Dick. “Oktoberfest for me is broken into two parts. Obviously the one is to go out and party, celebrating something most of us don’t even really know about. And then the other is going to the parade with family. It’s always been my own tradition to go.”

Although Dick has attended Oktoberfest events in the past, she, like many students this year, are experiencing the event for the first time being of the legal drinking age.

“I like beer and parades so that’s why I go … I’m just looking forward to going and nursing a nice pre-midterm hangover,” she said.

With the increased amount of traffic and alcohol consumption in the region during the festival, Oktoberfest organizers encourage safety in the community.

This year, Economical Insurance has officially sponsored the K-W Oktoberfest Reduced Impaired Driving Everywhere (RIDE) program.

“Our partnership with Economical has great synergy as the annual festival has always been about celebrating culture and family, while ensuring safety programs and awareness are top of mind for guests and our community,” said Mark Kreller, executive director of Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest.

Grand River Transit is also doing its part by offering free shuttle service for select routes and venues after 11 p.m. during the opening and closing weekends.

Historically, Kitchener was an area defined by its German population. Originally called Berlin, the city has its roots in German tradition.

Laurier itself grew out of the Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, founded in part because of the large German Lutheran population in the area. Other local icons also boast German roots, including St. Jacobs.

Originally, the area was referred to as Jakobstettel.

Today, many citizens in Waterloo region still claim to have German ancestry. In 2006, a census of the area found that of 446,495 respondents, 105,675 claimed to have at least some German ancestry.

As per tradition, on Oct. 4 at Waterloo Public Square Waterloo, Mayor Brenda Halloran will host a free Oktoberfest luncheon,  which will be accompanied by musical performances. The opening ceremonies will be starting at 11 a.m. in front of Kitchener City Hall in the civic square, which will include the ceremonial keg tapping.

Appearances can be expected by the festival mascot Onkel Hans as well as this year’s Miss Oktoberfest, Lindsay Coulter, who was crowned last Friday.

There will also be a performance by the Black Forest Band.

For more information regarding K-W Oktoberfest news, venues, events, links to the official Oktoberfest Facebook and Twitter pages and everything Oktoberfest, visit the official website at Oktoberfest.ca

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