It’s finally here.. the much anticipated 10-day German festival known around Kitchener-Waterloo known as Oktoberfest! While it’s true there are lots of festhalles with beer drinking going on, that is only one small part of the festival and there are dozens of wonderful family events taking place over the next 10 days so get out there and have some fun.
Oktoberfest 101 Here’s the story for those new to Oktoberfest..
The Festival Origin..
Once upon a time, long long ago in a far away land known as Bavaria, a Crown Prince, who later became King Ludgwig I, married the beautiful princess Therese Von Sachesen-Hildenburghausen. The loyal soldiers in the Prince’s National Guard thought that the horse races would be a most fitting way to celebrate the happy event. King Max, proud father of the Prince, gave his consent to the races and so they became the finale of five days of wedding festivities on October 17, 1810. This was the likely beginning of Oktoberfest.
The horse races became an annual event and were combined with the state agricultural fair the following year. It wasn’t until 1818 that booths, serving food and drink, were set up at the event. In the late 1800’s, the booths had grown into large beer halls or tents, which are still set up each year on the Theresienwiese named in honour of Ludwig’s bride.
Flash forward to today..
Since 1969, Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest has become the largest Bavarian festival in North America with the greatest Thanksgiving Day Parade in Canada. Through the celebration of this Spirit of Gemuetlichkeit, thousands of visitors celebrate annually in dozens of Festhallen scattered across the city and attending some of the more than 40 family and cultural events.
If you haven’t been, you should really check it out. While some people have a negative idea of out of control beer bashes, that is not true. Sure, there is a lot of partying that goes on around town among the younger crowd, but I promise you that there is so much more to this wonderful festival and I encourage you to give it a try.
My Top 5 Family Event Picks for Oktoberfest
Here are some of my favourite FAMILY events for you to consider… all are FREE and I guarantee you will have fun and make some great memories!
#1 Thursday Oct 9th
City of Waterloo Mayor’s Luncheon & Waterloo’s Official Opening Ceremonies
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Waterloo Public Square, corners of King Street South and Willis Way.
Come enjoy music, camaraderie and free delicious traditional food (while quantities last) served by the Mayor and Councillors. Onkel Hans, Miss Oktoberfest and with traditional music by the Black Forest Band.
- Friday October. 11, 2013
- 11:30 am – 1:30 am
- Kitchener Civic Square, Kitchener
- This year it’s a PA Day so take the kids and enjoy the excitement.
Kitchener Civic Square will be bustling with pomp and ceremony, music and dancing, and the enthusiasm of thousands of revelers eager to begin the Festival.
Honoured guests and dignitaries will accompany our President, Harry Vogt, the newly crowned Miss Oktoberfest and our favourite ambassador Onkel Hans in kicking off the nine days of celebration and the Spirit of Gemuetlichkeit.
#3. Oktoberfest FREE Family Breakfast
Saturday October 12th
FREE – donations to the Food Bank gratefully accepted
7:30 – 11 am
Waterloo Public Square (on King between Erb & William)
This is a fabulous new tradition that we are enjoying. The Waterloo Square comes alive with thousands of people, live German music and a fabulous festive atmosphere. Oh and don’t forget the FREE amazing breakfast of sausages, pancakes and coffee! Yes there will be a line-up but this event is incredbily well organized and I am blown away at how quickly it moves. Within about 20 minutes, you will be eating. A seriously great time and wonderful way to start off the festival.
#4. Oktoberfest Parade
Monday, October 14th
Starts at 8:30 am
Starting in Uptown Waterloo – 8:30 am
The parade is our highlight of the 10-day Oktoberfest celebration. For many families across the region this is one annual tradition that can’t be missed.
Getting up before the sun comes up to bundle up and claim our spot with the thousands of other people lining the parade route each year to watch the awesome collection of floats, bands and special entries that are part of this annual event.
The KW Oktoberfest parade features one of the most spectacular Thanksgiving Day Parades in Canada. Join over 150,000 Fest-goers as they line King Street on Thanksgiving morning, eagerly awaiting the colourful floats, clowns and award winning marching bands from Canada and the United States.
The Parade route is always lined with enthusiastic onlookers as it travels its 5 km route starting from King and Erb Streets in Waterloo and ending to King and Madison streets in Kitchener.
Donations to the Food Bank are accepted along the parade route so do your part and bring along some non-perishable donations to help those less fortunate.
The parade is also televised so if you can’t make it in person, watch the local CTV network broadcasts the Parade nationwide. Check your TV listings for the airing time in your location.
#5. Wilkommen Platz Festhalle
Our family always visits this Festvalle called Wilkommen Platz at some point during Oktoberfest to get our little slice of Oktoberfest.
Located in the heart of downtown Kitchener-Waterloo, this tent offers a festive yet family-friendly atmosphere and admission is FREE. Look for the tent located where Frederick Street meets King Street. The entire area for about 2 or 3 blocks is transformed with many outdoor stages, food vendors and various activities for everyone to enjoy.
The city centre is turned in to a ‘Bavarian Villiage” for the 10-day festival and this tent features FREE live entertainment on the Children’s Stage. Check out the displays and activities, excellent authentic German food, snacks, beverages, information, souvenirs and of course, a wee Bier Garten. Fun for the whole family. The Platz is open daily through the festival.
Check out these events also taking place…
Kitchener Council’s Grillefest
Kitchener City Hall, Civic Square – 200 King Street West
Friday, October 11; 11am to 2pm
Join members of Kitchener City Council as they celebrate the official opening ceremonies of Oktoberfest. Council and city staff will serve you a delicious, traditional Oktoberfest sausage and cold drink for only $3.50. This year, Piller’s Fine Foods will generously donate the sausages and BBQs along with a few of their finest grillemasters. All proceeds from this event will be donated to The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.
Fall Art Market
Friday – Sunday October 11-13; 1:30pm-8pm
King Street – Between Queen and Frederick
Come join us on King Street for a special fall art market with music, dance and appearances by special guest!
6th Annual Bavarian Strongman Challenge
Saturday, October 12; Noon to 5pm
King Street – Downtown Kitchener
Come see amazing feat of strength at the 6th Annual Bavarian Strongman Challenge. Each challenge of strength tests the dynamic and static force of each competing athlete truly testing their endurance. The day’s events will be action packed with additional Oktoberfest attractions. Who will be the 2013 Bavarian Strongman? Get downtown and enjoy this free family friendly event!
Wednesday, October 16; 1130am to130pm
Dancers music and lunch special
ADMISSION: FREE, unless otherwise noted.