About 1,000 people joined to celebrate the opening ceremony of the 50th annual Oktoberfest, followed by Grille-fest, at Kitchener’s Carl Zehr Square on Friday.
Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic officially announced the start of the Oktoberfest. During his opening remarks, Vrbanovic said that, as this year marks the official start of the 50th anniversary of the event, everyone was welcome to the city to enjoy a happy Oktoberfest.
Ken Seiling, the outgoing regional chair of Waterloo Region, similarly welcomed all the participants for taking part at the North America’s largest Bavarian festival.
“The beer is coming!” he proclaimed to the loud cheers.
Officials from the federal and provincial governments, regional officers from Waterloo Region, dignitaries from different business sectors and representatives from Oktoberfest committee graced the event.
The Rogers Hometown Hockey tour is also taking place in Kitchener this weekend from Friday to Sunday. Hosts Ron MacLean and Tara Slone will be on site for the festivities, which include meet-and-greet opportunities with former Toronto Maple Leafs Darryl Sittler, Nik Antropov and Darcy Tucker.
People also enjoyed a special performance by legendary Canadian power pop band The Pursuit of Happiness and a live Sportsnet NHL broadcast.
Mathew Alan, a participant and diehard Maple Leaf fan, said this is the time he was waiting to celebrate and meet with his favourite players.
“My background is from Germany and to see German restaurants, bars and architecture across King Street, as the resident of this city and having the same background, it is always exciting for me to come out and keep this event moving and continue growing each year,” Alan said. “The most exciting thing for me is, Oktoberfest and Hometown Hockey in one place. Heaven is a place on Earth.”
The Kitchener Rangers wore special Oktoberfest commemorative jerseys on Friday night as the Rangers hosted the Saginaw Spirit. A crest with Oktoberfest’s founding date and a shoulder patch with the Rangers logo are featured on the special-edition jerseys. At the game, a silent auction will be held for 19 of them. The remaining six will be put online for auction through the CHL website. Proceeds from the auctions will go to the Food Bank of Waterloo Region. (The Rangers lost to the Spirit in overtime by a score of 4-3.)
The annual Oktoberfest Thanksgiving Day Parade is on Monday, beginning at Weber and Frederick streets at 8:30 a.m. People will join the vibrant and creative floats, bands and special entries as they follow Weber Street to Bridgeport Road in Waterloo.