So you’re ready for Oktoberfest, eh? Or maybe you’ve just returned from Munich and you’re not ready to stow your lederhosen just yet, eh? I’m going to keep saying “eh?” until you realize that I’m talking about the world’s second largest Oktoberfest celebration, found in the twin cities of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. If you’ve ever wanted to see what a moose looks like in a dirndl, Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest is probably your best chance.
KITCHENER-WATERLOO OKTOBERFEST | HISTORY
The first ever Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo—North America’s greatest Bavarian festival—began with a traditional keg tapping on October 14, 1969. (They’re actually pros at this because it’s almost exactly like tapping a maple tree.) Before this, the local German club had hosted a smaller version of an Oktoberfest. Entrepreneurial Canadians they are, they saw this as a great chance to birth a much larger tourism event to attract visitors to Kitchener-Waterloo. In other words, $$ CHA-CHINGGG! $$
The local German community supported this venture (unsurprisingly) enthusiastically and they even got a tourism official from Munich, Germany on board. They started their Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo with just $200 and probably a lot of hoping they don’t screw this up. After just five days they’d already attracted almost 75,000 visitors who drank 57,000 gallons of beer and ate 50,000 pounds of sausages. Germans: go big or literally go home, eh? Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo is now celebrated as Canada’s largest Thanksgiving celebration. Wait… what?
KITCHENER-WATERLOO OKTOBERFEST | WHEN/WHERE/HOW MUCH
Today, Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo, featuring Canada’s most famous Thanksgiving Day parade, takes place annually over nine days but let me explain something first: Thanksgiving in Canada takes place on the second Monday in October each year. We learn something new every day, eh? Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo begins the Friday before Canadian Thanksgiving and ends the Saturday after.
Unlike Oktoberfest in Munich that takes place in one central location, Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo takes place in many locations around the city. Spread the love; it’s the Canadian way! The Kitchener Willkommen Platz is the official hub of Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo and is located in the downtown Kitchener City Hall. This Bavarian-style village is the spot for daily entertainment, activities, food and beverages, souvenirs, miscellaneous visitor information, and of course, a festhalle! Spread the beer; that’s the German way.
The World’s Second Largest Oktoberfest: Kitchener-Waterloo Canada
The rest of Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo is spread out among 17 festhallen and around town at over 40 cultural events. Each festhallen provides visitors a unique experience but all provide food and beer (and probably other things that aren’t beer, but like, why would you?), traditional music and dancing, and are operated by local German clubs. Here’s a map where you can find and collect them all!
The cost for attending Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo depends on when you attend and which festhallen you plan to get your drink on, in. You’ll have to check this ticket page for those details or Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo will have come and gone before I finished typing up all the options.
OKTOBERFEST KITCHENER-WATERLOO | WHAT TO EXPECT
Though Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo is not the international spectacle the one in Munich is, it’s still North America’s largest and in charge-est. Each year an average of 700,000 visitors show up to Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo to celebrate beer, German culture, and, apparently, giving thanks.
Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo’s grand Thanksgiving Day parade is the toast of Canada and is the only major televised parade in the country. And with a cast of characters like Onkel Hans, Tante Frieda, and their hilarious beer stein nephews, that’s absolutely a parade we can get down with.
KITCHENER-WATERLOO OKTOBERFEST | SPECIAL EVENTS
Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo is loo-ded up with special events of all kinds. There’s the Miss Oktoberfest gala + crowning, an Oktoberfest fashion show, an archery contest (their longest-running event which means probably no one has gotten seriously injured yet), a barrel race, an axe throwing contest (sure, sounds like a wunderbar idea), and my personal favorite, the Media Meister where local radio stations compete to create Oktoberfest versions of popular songs from their respective stations. “Is it too late now to say Ein Prosit?” – The latest single from Justin Bierber.
Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo also plays host to a number of sports and fitness events as well: the Oktoberfest Golf Experience, a 5k Fun Run, the Tour de Hans, and yes, even an Oktoberfest bodybuilding competition. Go ahead, show off those stein-lifting muscles.
So if you find yourself on the other side of the world and want to celebrate Oktoberfest, have no fear—Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo has beer! And if you’re really thirsty, here are some of the other celebrations of Oktoberfest around the world.