Oktoberfest kicked off with a blast today at Kitchener city hall.
A massive crowd turned out for the start of what has become the largest Bavarian festival outside of Germany. There was live music, dancing and the ceremonial tapping of the keg, led by Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest’s president, Margo Jones.
Oktoberfest is a celebration of Kitchener-Waterloo’s German heritage and is open to everyone of all backgrounds.
“What I say to people is come out and be German for a week,” said Jones. “The one (event) that is really special to me is when we do the citizenship. It’s on Tuesday this week. We get to welcome in new citizens to Canada.”
What began as $200 and a vote of confidence five decades ago has grown into a massive event, attracting hundreds of thousands of people every year who bring $22 million into the community.
“It is now a Bavarian festival with more family and cultural events than we’ve ever had,” said Alfred Lowrick, the executive director of Oktoberfest. “And that is the focus we try to portray.”
A vital character at every year’s celebration is Miss Oktoberfest.
“I almost didn’t run,” said Sandra Dynka, this year’s Miss Oktoberfest. Dynka is a Kitchener native who has been attending the festival since she was a child. “I wanted to give back to the festival,” she said, adding that Oktoberfest meant so much to her family growing up. Dynka continued, “I wanted to give girls, and women and men in this community the inspiration to push through their fears and insecurities.”
Dynka is more than just a beauty queen. She played tennis on tour for several years after getting a degree in kinesiology and nutrition from Texas Tech University, and is now transitioning into coaching.
There is a new festival hall this year, Oktoberfest Haus, that is entirely cashless. Those wishing to attend will load credit onto a wristband. From there, they only need to tap their wristband when purchasing beer or food.
For those interested in attending the festival, more information is available at oktoberfest.ca. Both Lowrick and Jones said, “Oktoberfest is wunderbar!”