July 23, 2024


The one thing everyone can count on every year in Kitchener-Waterloo is Oktoberfest. This year will mark the 43rd annual celebration of the Bavarian festival, including the Thanksgiving Day parade.

However, no one gets to see all the time and energy put into the parade before it goes down King Street at 8:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Monday.

From the signs to the floats, there is a whole team of about 150 volunteers who make the largest parade in Canada happen. They spend months planning, organizing and putting floats together to delight the people lining the street.

Jean Weiler, parade director, said it’s a year-long job.

“I think a lot of people think the parade just happens,” she said. “They call us the one-day wonders.”

Weiler said even through the stress and organization of the parade, she likes people to see the finished product.

“My favourite part is the kids,” she said. “The facial expressions and how excited they get, I’d just like to bottle up their energy and use it on adults sometimes.”

She doesn’t think people are that interested in how much work goes into putting a float together, but Eric Scheffler, the vice-chair, has a different view.

“The thing that a lot of people can’t appreciate is the day of,” said Scheffler. “It starts at four in the morning and getting everything to come together is really exciting.”

He said the job of delegating and co-ordinating is stressful. It’s the timeline and getting everyone together to get things done that takes time.

“You got a huge list of things that have to happen,” Scheffler said. “We’ve pulled all-nighters before.”

That’s not the way he likes to do things, but this year they are in really good shape.

There are still unforeseen issues that could happen, such as floats breaking down and fixing them on the fly. One year the Miss Oktoberfest float blew a belt in the engine as it was going downtown. But Scheffler is optimistic.

“When things go wrong, we always solve the problems. So far we’ve been very lucky.”

Though things may go wrong and the committee may need a contingency plan, the biggest concern is keeping the volunteers safe. Scheffler said after all is said and done, successfully getting the parade down the route with no injuries or major issues is always a big relief.

Entirely run by volunteers, the parade, more commonly referred to as the Oktoberfest Parade, is broadcast nationally and attracts thousands of spectators.

This year it will start at the corner of Erb and King streets in Waterloo and finish at Madison Avenue on Oct. 8. For a detailed map of the parade route, go to www.oktoberfest.ca/parade_map_popup.html.