With Summer coming to a close, university students flooding back to the area, and a drop in temperature, one cannot help but turn their thoughts to Kitchener-Waterloo’s upcoming signature event: Oktoberfest. The annual nine-day festival, based on the original German Oktoberfest, has been attracting tourists since 1969. The festival runs from the Friday before Canadian Thanksgiving until the following Saturday. With 16 festhallen, 40 family and cultural events, a parade with 120 floats, bands and characters, and even a Miss. Oktoberfest Pagent, Oktoberfest celebrates the area’s German heritage, good food and great beer.
While its best-known draws are the beer-based celebrations, other cultural and entertainment attractions also fill the week. The most well-known is the parade held on Thanksgiving Day – it is the only major parade on Canadian Thanksgiving, and is broadcast throughout Canada and portions of the northern United States on CTV. The parade draws an audience of about 150,000. But let’s get back to the food and beer part.
The food and beverage industry is thriving in Ontario, as well as in Waterloo Region. This is good news as Oktoberfest involves a healthy amount of eating and drinking. The initial Oktoberfest consumed 50,000 lbs of sausage and other German eats washed down with 57,000 gallons of ale – these numbers only increased as the festival grew. Schneider’s Foods (now part of Maple Leaf Foods), began as a small operation in J.M Schneider’s kitchen in the 1890s. Over time, it grew into a major supplier of processed foods and meats. Half a century later, Wilhelm Huber, a Yugoslovian immigrant, opened a butcher shop that evolved into Piller’s Sausages and Delicatessans Ltd. These two companies produce over 30% of all hotdogs consumed in Canada (roughly a billion anually) right here in Waterloo Region. Need a bun? Weston Breads is right around the corner.
If those salted meats have left you a bit dry, Cambridge’s Grand River Brewing and Waterloo’s Brick Brewery (one of Canada’s largest breweries) can provide you with some tasty and quenching pints. In fact, the Brick Brewery is touted as a leader in Ontario’s renaissance in craft brewing . Other examples of regional craft brewing include Grand River Brewing, who produce a variety of staple beers and unique seasonals out of an old knife factory in Galt. Mark your calendar for the upcoming Highballer Pumpkin Ale release!
KW’s Oktoberfest has had its beer supplied by Molson-Coors for over 30 years and this year they will feature a traditional German-styled beer brewed by nearby Creemore Springs. If you would like to pair that with the perfect Oktoberfest frank – you’re in luck! Schneiders developed the official Oktoberfest sausage in 1969.
Now that I have whet your appetite for some fine German culture and fare, you may also want to note that CTT Inc., Okotberfest, and our Municipal Partners will be using Oktoberfest as an opportunity to showcase and promote the Region of Waterloo to international business leaders, media, and government at the annual Passport to Success event.