Events, Featured

Oktoberfest – it’s Wunderbar!

Note: This article is hosted here for archival purposes only. It does not necessarily represent the values of the Iron Warrior or Waterloo Engineering Society in the present day.

Oktoberfest first began over 200 years ago in Munich as a celebration of a marriage within the royal family of Germany. It began with horse races and dancing, but in 1892 the first beer tents were added to the festival. Oktoberfest is now the largest beer festival in the world with a mind boggling 6.4 million visitors in 2010 alone. But why does KW have the second largest Oktoberfest festival in the world? Well, this is due to the large German population in KW – the Concordia Club (one of KW’s many German clubs) had it’s own celebrations each year. In 1969 a group of people decided Oktoberfest would be a great way for KW to celebrate it’s German heritage and decided to run the very first KW Oktoberfest festival.
These days KW Oktoberfest has grown, and there is a lot more to do than drink beer (if you want to know more about Oktoberfest beer please refer to the Beer Buzz article in this issue). For starters, the biggest Canadian Thanksgiving parade runs on Thanksgiving Day on King Street in Kitchener Waterloo and attracts more than 150,000 people each year. Another popular event is the official tapping of the keg ceremony signifying the start of the festival. There is also an Oktoberfest run, a keg rolling contest, a free pancake breakfast, Rocktoberfest (a large rock concert), and much more.
For those interested in partying, the festhallen are the places to be. Festhallen serve beer and German food, and generally have traditional German dancing and music. Traditional Oktoberfest foods and drinks include schnitzel, Oktoberfest sausages, pretzels, beer nuts, apple strudel, sauerkraut (pickled cabbage), German potato salad, beer, and schnapps. Most festhallen also sell cotton candy, Belgian waffles, candy apples, and other fair food. Some festhallen have midways with archery games, ring toss, etc. Generally most festhallen are huge beer tents connected to a permanent building (some are year-round German clubs) or a large sports auditorium.
Oktoberfest has its very own style of dress as well. Festhallen are usually casual dress, however if you want you can wear traditional German costumes – dirndls for the women (a dirndl is a bodice, blouse, full skirt and apron and can be made from anything from simple fabrics to embroidered silks) and lederhosen for the men (breeches made of leather that fall knee-length or higher). You can buy these costumes online or at stores around KW (local stag shops offer sexier, cheaper versions around Oktoberfest). Another Oktoberfest tradition is felt hats with big feathers and commemorative pins (each year several new pins labelled with the year are introduced). Other accessories include decorative cowbells and small ceramic beer steins hung around the neck. All festhallen have souvenir booths where you can buy Oktoberfest accessories and pins.
This year there were 18 official festhallen, and more are added each year as the festival grows. Which festhallen should you go to? Well that depends what you are looking for – if you want traditional German Oktoberfest (or at least as close as you can get outside of Germany) go to one of the five major German clubs: The Alpine Club, Concordia Club, Hubertushaus, Schwaben Club, or Transylvania Club. These festhallen are guaranteed to offer the traditional music and dancing, and sometimes (if you know where to look) real Oktoberfest beer from Germany (read the Beer Buzz article for more info). If you want Top 40 music and one or two polkas, head to one of the University Nights at Bingeman’s, the Aud, and a few other locations in KW. University Night at these festhallen are also a lot cheaper for admission and food (but not beer, it’s expensive everywhere).
Above all, it is essential that if you want to go Oktoberfesting next year that you plan early – I bought tickets for Friday, October 14th at Concordia Club back in June, a number of other nights were already sold out at that time! A ticket allows you to enter the festhallen early without having to wait in line outside and guarantees you admission as long as you arrive before a time listed on your ticket. I strongly encourage you to go out Oktoberfesting during your time at UW – it’s a ton of fun and is something very unique that KW has to offer! Prost!

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