BY IAN SHANTZ | SEPTEMBER 2022
Dust off your Lederhosen and Dirndls, Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest is back on ‘tracht.’
After two years of modified festivities due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, event organizers are preparing for a bigger and better Bavarian bash in 2022 while prioritizing safety and inclusion.
“We’re very excited to be coming back in a way that people are used to seeing Oktoberfest being celebrated,” Oktoberfest president Allan Cayenne said of the event, which runs from Sept. 23 to Oct. 15.
“Everyone can be German for a day and come enjoy the food and the dancing and the music. We want everyone to feel comfortable celebrating Oktoberfest.”
While I don’t personally own Lederhosen – and have no plans to invest in the traditional German tracht (traditional German outfits) now or in the future, thank you very much – I can’t wait to head back to Canada’s largest Bavarian festival. Having been born and raised in Waterloo Region and then leaving the area more than two decades ago, I returned to my roots last spring. Since then, I have been telling my wife (ad nauseam) about my experiences in my formative years at the legendary festival. The event was a staple of my youth, whether it meant slip-sliding on the beer-drenched Moses Springer festival floor, seeing Sloan and Walter Ostanek share a stage at Queensmount Arena, or enjoying a shenanigan or two at The Aud.
While my wife’s main motivation for attending her first Oktoberfest as a local or otherwise might be to get me to finally stop sales-pitching the event to her, she has been known to love a good theme and will be donning a Dirndl as she does the polka and raises a stein.
As we prepare to reunite with Onkel Hans and Tante Frieda for three weeks of “Gemütlichkeit,” here’s a ‘fester’s guide to all things Oktoberfest. Whether it’s your first time or your 30th, in Lederhosen or Levi’s, there’s truly something for everyone.
WHERE TO JOIN THE PARTY
Few words are as synonymous with Oktoberfest as Festhallen (literally translated means Festival Halls). Traditional and modern celebrations can be found practically within earshot across the region over three suds-soaked weeks.
With no fewer than five long-established German clubs in the region, traditional parties are in abundance. New for 2022 is the Habsburg Haus. The Alpine Club and Transylvania Club have teamed up to give ’festgoers an elevated authentic Oktoberfest experience. With Transylvania pigtails, Alpine apple strudel, dancing and music, it will be Oktoberfest celebrated in its classic form.
The Concordia Club has origins dating to 1873 in Kitchener and has six official Oktoberfest events listed, as does the Hubertushaus German-Canadian hunting and fishing club just west of Kitchener (which is home to Bogenschuetzenfest – an archery style event that happens throughout the Thanksgiving Weekend).
The Schwaben Club in Breslau has been a mainstay for more than 80 years. It will be full of life and is a great option for the folk-dancing enthusiast.
Bingemans Kool Haus is one of the region’s largest festhalles and variety is the name of the game here. Traditional Bavarian feasts, a concert series highlighted by Canadian rock legend Kim Mitchell alongside The Golden Keys, and a new event, the Kinderfest fall fair, ensures Kool Haus will be bopping from start to finish.
With Oktoberfest starting earlier this year, guests can enjoy an additional weekend, expanded festival grounds and more entertainment than ever.
“We’ve specifically made sure that we have a different entertainment product every night,” Bingemans president Mark Bingeman said. “Hopefully we hit all the genres people like.”
Added Bingeman: “It’s a huge deal to be back into Oktoberfest and it’s a huge opportunity to be back into our growth pattern. We’re certainly seeing some pent-up excitement.”
’Festers can celebrate to their heart’s content by way of Micro-Festhallen, a partnership with Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest and area restaurants that puts Bavarian-inspired menu items and beer pairings in the spotlight.
We’d recommend a good place to start would be St. Jacobs-based Block 3 Brewing’s Blocktoberfest, Sept. 23-24.
WHERE TO PLAY
While the Official Keg Tapping is slated for Oct. 7, events are happening long before then.
WelcomeFest, dubbed ‘K-W’s Friendliest Music Festival,’ featured a full slate of music at Maxwell’s in Waterloo on Sept. 2-3. The Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Golf Experience was quick to sell out, while mobile music stage Wunderwagen returns following a successful first year in 2021, bringing bands and entertainment directly into neighbourhoods throughout the region. KIDtoberfest (Oct. 7-9 at THEMUSEUM) gives the little ones, ages 3 to 10, their very own version of Oktoberfest highlighted by song, dance, learning and activities.
An expanded Willkommen Platz takes over downtown Kitchener, transforming the city’s core into a Bavarian village for four days (Oct. 6 to Oct. 9), while the popular Thanksgiving Day Parade is back following a two-year hiatus and serves as one of Oktoberfest’s marquee events. For a complete day-to-day listing of what’s happening, be sure to check the official Oktoberfest Event Calendar.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed considering there’s so much to choose from each day, simply go find a schnitzel, a pretzel, some strudel, or a cabbage roll, and dig in. Prost!
WHERE TO GIVE BACK
Anyone attending the Thanksgiving Day Parade is encouraged to bring non-perishable food items and cash donations as part of the Onkel Hans Food Drive. Cash donations can be made year-round by visiting the Onkel Hans Food Drive page on the Food Bank of Waterloo Region website.
Ian Shantz is an award-winning, seasoned writer and editor based in Waterloo Region. Throughout his career in journalism spanning nearly 20 years, Ian has specialized in various storytelling, including sports, travel and breaking news reporting. He works at The Toronto Sun. Raised in the townships of Wellesley and Woolwich, Ian is forever in pursuit of a quality cup of coffee, a top-secret swimming hole, and a favourite new band.