Trudeau pays visit at 48th annual Oktoberfest

Photo by Will Huang

Photo by Will Huang

The Kitchener-Waterloo Region spent this past weekend wrapping up Canada’s Greatest Bavarian Festival,the 48th annual Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest in K-W runs annually beginning the Friday before Thanksgiving and continues for nine days until the following Saturday.

The festival began in 1969 by a small group of dedicated volunteers and has since grown to be the second-largest Oktoberfest in the world with nearly a million annual visitors, topped only by the festival held in Munich.

Originally inspired by a small Oktoberfest celebration at one of the region’s five German clubs, the Concordia Club, it has since grown to include fest-halls run by all clubs, as well as those operated out of existing venues for the length of the festival and other traditions such as the festival mascot Onkel Hans and the crowning of Miss Oktoberfest.

“There’s been a strong tie to the German culture and roots here with our five German clubs,” said Dave MacNeil, executive director of Oktoberfest K-W Inc.

“Kitchener, at one time, was called Berlin and it did have a lot of migrants from Germany—people that settled here and started their careers and families here, so we have a rich German heritage here and the German clubs obviously help foster that.”

The festival continues to grow each year, with the addition of a new fest-hall, Berlin Haus, at the Inn at Waterloo, as well as a farm fresh community breakfast on the second weekend.

Certain sites, such as the tent and welcome plaque, had to be relocated due to continued LRT construction, a project which has also caused a rerouting of the Thanksgiving Day parade for the past two years.

The Thanksgiving Parade is the largest in Canada and is broadcast across the country as well as many north-eastern states.

Arguably the largest draw of the festival was at this year’s opening ceremonies, at which every year a ceremonial keg is tapped to officially kick-off the festival.

This year was a unique tapping, however, in that it was performed by the current prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau.

“He’s the first sitting prime minister that ever has been at our opening ‘tap the keg,’ so that was just quite special for all of us here,” said MacNeil.

“His father had been at the festival 45 years to the day at the Concordia club, so we had a picture that we presented to him. It was quite a touching moment for him and for us and it just really made that moment truly Canadian— having the prime minister there tapping the keg.”

Though the 2016 Oktoberfest has just barely wrapped-up, K-W is already looking ahead to future festivities, both next year’s and beyond.

“Well next year is our 49th year, so not a whole lot new for next year,” said MacNeil.

“But we already have committees in place for the 50th, so I think there will be a lot of work leading up to that.”

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