September 22, 2020

BY WHITNEY SOUTH

When most people think of Oktoberfest, visions of dirndls, sauerkraut and polka bands come to mind. But also taking centre stage was the A Blooming Affair fashion show, which rocked the runway, treating guests to a red carpet, great fashions and a lot of style.

The show, which was held Oct. 3, began as a flower show, eventually transforming into a fashion event featuring clothing designed and made by female board members. Entering its 39th year, a lot has changed.

The event, which now attracts over 900 people each year, showcases the area’s top local fashions.

From casual wear to lingerie, this year’s show featured local retailers from Kitchener-Waterloo, St. Jacob’s and New Dundee.

Representing every age, models walked the catwalk wearing garments from 15 local merchants, including collections from GAP Kids and Spanner.

The event featured for the first time a runway show put on by the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Official Retail Store, specializing in Oktoberfest-themed garb, perfect for that beer-drinking night on the town.

Tracy Van Kalsbeek has been the committee’s chair for five years and said she has seen the show go through a lot of changes, including the addition of German dancers this year, which the committee hoped would provide a little Oktoberfest flair.

“To be honest that’s the first time we’ve done something like that in a long time,” she said. “I think that over the years there have always been the same people who come to the show, there’s been a whole disconnect I think. People don’t remember it’s Oktoberfest.”

Also pushing the envelope this year was Vicanie’s Fine Lingerie and Luxuries, based out of Kitchener.

Beginning the set with soft lines, hats and eyewear reminiscent of the flapper era, Vicanie’s models soon transformed from demure ladies to powerful vixens sporting black undergarments accented with bridles, riding crops and boots.

But the evening’s festivities weren’t just about fashion. Every two years, A Blooming Affair selects one charitable organization to raise money for.

This was the second year the show helped raise awareness and cash for Pride Stables, an organization that supports children with disabilities who participate in therapeutic horseback riding.

The committee’s decision to add a charitable component came about eight years ago, and began with KidsAbility. Wanting to give back to the community, the committee decided not to support just one organization exclusively, but different ones, giving each one of them a chance to tell their story and present a proposal.

Van Kalsbeek said the charities also help with A Blooming Affair.

“What’s great about it is that the kids model in the show and they get involved with selling raffle tickets beforehand,” she said. “It’s not just that they’re there at the end to be handed a cheque, they’re really a partner which is very important to us.”

Heather MacKneson, executive director of Pride Stables, said her organization was thrilled to have been a part of the event for the past two years.

“People are often unaware of the type of programs and services that are offered in their communities,” she said. “Events like A Blooming Affair are a great way to reach a lot of people.”

According to Pride Stable’s website, the benefits of horseback riding are multi-dimensional.

Lessons are based on sequencing, which enables each rider to learn at his or her own pace. Participating in weekly lessons also builds special friendships between the rider, the horse, volunteers and staff members.

Therapeutic riding uses the horse as an instrument. The combination of the horse’s movement, which simulates the human walking motion, and its higher body temperature serves to supply passive heat massage to the riders’ muscles, thereby either relaxing spastic muscles or stimulating lax muscles. Riders also participate in exercises improving their muscle strength and flexibility in their upper body.

Pride Stables will receive a portion of the money raised from raffle ticket sales. MacKneson said with the evening’s large turnout, she hoped to exceed last year’s total of $2,535.