Keg tapping kicks off Oktoberfest
This past Friday, Oct. 7, Kitchener-Waterloo marked the beginning of its 43rd annual Oktoberfest with its ceremonial keg tapping at Kitchener City Hall.
Incepted on Oct. 14, 1969, Oktoberfest is an event that not only celebrates the region’s distinct German heritage; it is an event that brings together people from across North America and beyond.
Although the event was scheduled to begin around noon, people began to arrive as early as 8:30 a.m. Dressed in their traditional German dresses — known as a dirndl — Meghan Hennessey and Nicole Stuber, both former Miss Oktoberfest winners, were on the scene as city hall was being prepared for the keg tapping.
“Oktoberfest to me is about the culture, the food, and the fun. There’s so much going on, and it’s such a great experience as it really does bring the community together. Actually, Oktoberfest Incorporated is a non-profit organization. Run with over 500 volunteers, those are the people in our community that keep it going,” said Hennessey.
While many people attend Oktoberfest to enjoy its many drinking events and festhallen, Stuber wanted to emphasize that Oktoberfest is much more than that.
“There’s this stigma surrounding Oktoberfest that it’s just a beer festival,” she said. “But with over 40 family and cultural events, there’s something for everyone.”
At around noon, the event began. Hosted by Nancy Richards of the CBC, it featured performances by K-W’s Glee, ‘Oktoberfest Idol’ winners Karli Purcell and Joshua Peidle, the Transylvania Club Dancers and Grammy award winner Walter Ostanek. Speeches were made by city mayors Carl Zehr of Kitchener and Brenda Halloran of Waterloo, amongst others. Each performance was greeted with applause and cheers from the crowd packed into the event.
Amid the festivities, Constable Tim Peterson was patrolling the area on horseback. He commented on the challenges posed to the police department during Oktoberfest, as well as ways people in the community can stay safe.
“There’s just an increased volume of certain types of activities and behaviors. We have an enormous increase in licensed establishments,” Peterson said. “A lot of it is no different than any other time of year. There’s a greater potential for people to find themselves in a situation they don’t care to. Stay with friends, don’t drink and drive. Have a plan.”
Not everyone in attendance was there to participate in festivities. Activists from two local groups, the ‘K-W collective on Peace and Justice’, and the group ‘Poverty Makes us Sick’ gathered on King Street to voice their concerns on a variety of issues, including poverty, imperialism, intolerance and Islamophobia.
“The reason we’re doing this event today is because it marks the tenth year anniversary of the first bombing in Afghanistan,” said protestor Josh Day. “Our rallying cry today is ‘peace and prosperity, not war and austerity’. We got a lot of info out today. That’s exciting. I think people can still enjoy themselves, and we can still be here in the public space.”
Music continued playing as the official keg was brought on stage, accompanied by the cities’ mayors, festival officials, festival mascots Onkel Hans, Ziggy and Zaggy and festival president Vic Degutis, as well as this year’s Miss Oktoberfest Brittany Graul. Counting to five in German, the festival president and Miss Oktoberfest tapped the keg, officially beginning Oktoberfest.
For more information regarding KW Oktoberfest news, venues, events, links to the official Oktoberfest Facebook and Twitter pages, and everything Oktoberfest, visit the official website at Oktoberfest.ca.