Oktoberfest turns 43

Oct. 7 will mark the kick off of Kitchener-Waterloo’s Oktoberfest. Originally a German beer drinking tradition, K-W Oktoberfest is the biggest in North America.

The executive director of K-W Oktoberfest Inc. Mark Kreller has been attending the festival since he was ten. “I’ve been involved [in the festival] for 38 years; as a musician, a 25-year volunteer and past president in 2007-2008,” he said. “It’s easy to get hooked.”

Waterloo mayor Brenda Halloran, has also grown up participating in Oktoberfest.

“I remember when it [Oktoberfest] first started in the 60’s and it was quite small,” said Halloran. “As the years have progressed 40 plus years later it has become the second largest Bavarian festivals outside of Germany.”

Now entering its 43rd year, K-W’s Oktoberfest offers a wide variety of activities, however, staying true to its Bavarian roots, beer plays a starring role.

There are 18 beer tents which will be set up all over the K-W area with a capacity ranging from 250 to 3,400 people. To ensure a safe transportation, free bussing will be available each Friday and Saturday during the festival from 11 p.m. to 1:50 a.m.

There are also many other dry events that students could enjoy. “Students like stuff that’s free and so there’s a free pancake breakfast,” said Kreller. “And then right after that there’s the great Oktoberfest barrel race, that’s always a lot of fun.” The city will also be hosting a barbeque in Uptown Waterloo on Thursday Oct. 6 .

There are also a variety of family cultural events including: a slow pitch tournament, a five km fun run and DOGtoberfest. Mayor Halloran was very impressed with the variety of events Oktoberfest in K-W has to offer. “Every year its increasing in it’s inclusivity for families,” said Halloran. “It used to be centered around beer drinking, but now it really includes a large part of the community and engages people of all ages.”

“And then there’s the Grand daddy of all event, the Thanksgiving Day parade on Monday Oct 10,” said Kreller. “A tradition for over 43 years for families to wake up, get their spot on King Street, grab their Timmies coffee and watch the parade.”

According to Kreller, the parade is one of the top three across Canada, he expects at least 150,000 people to line the route and an additional 1.8 million watch the parade on CTV.

“The community is really engaged in this festival,” said Kreller.

There is also a tremendous economic reward for the region. “It is a huge support because the festival brings in $21 million in economic benefit in an annual basis,” said Kreller.

“$1.5 million dollars goes back to the community in charity and we’ve donated over 1.5 million pounds of food to charity over the last 15 years.”

Halloran agreed, “A lot of the service clubs are able to fundraise so they can give back to the community the rest of the year.”

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