While the Munich Oktoberfest has come to an end, the celebrations in Kitchener-Waterloo are only getting started. With ten fest halls or “Festhallen”, a special Oktoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo brew, visitors from all over North America and festival ambassadors, the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest is the largest outside of Germany. How did it come into being? We caught up with Tim Beckett, second vice president of the festival, after running into his friend, mascot Hans in Ottawa.

 

How are you doing, Tim?

“I’m still standing, it’s a long week, quite a marathon…”

Do you get to celebrate a little bit as well or is it mainly a lot of work for you?

“Oh yeah we do, we enjoy a little bit of beer every once a while, and lots of food.”

What motivates you to support the Oktoberfest so passionately?

“I’ve been with the organization approximately eleven years, and it started out in my role as the fire chief in the city of Kitchener. From that position I got involved, and eventually joined the Board of Directors. I myself am not German.”

Tim is not the only supporter who does not have German roots – meanwhile approximately 450 volunteers with a variety of backgrounds work to realize the annual event, several of them year-round. It was in 1969 that a group of freshly-arrived Canadians with German heritage, most of whom living in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, decided to take the more than 200-year-old festival to Canada.

But seriously, isn’t the Oktoberfest just another occasion to have a lot of beer?

“Whereas in the past it was known as a beer festival, we try to make it more of a German heritage Bavarian style festival. Over time a lot more family and cultural things came into place. Instead of celebrating drinking beer, we support dancing, bringing families together. There is much more than beer to the fest halls.”

Several of the ten fest halls are hosted by German clubs connected to regions in south Germany. Each has its own atmosphere, providing different drinks, culinary delicacies, dance performances, and music. Just like the event itself, Tim’s motivation to support the festival is only growing. In 2019 and 2020, he will be the Oktoberfest’s president.

What will the Oktoberfest look like in the future?

“We are getting ready to celebrate 50 years of Oktoberfest next year! We want to diversify the fest halls. The existing ones have gotten bigger; some of the smaller ones have faded out. We have to do a better job working with the local community to bring in some service clubs. They are the ones that should have the rewards most of all, not us.”

The Oktoberfest in Kitchener-Waterloo is open until Saturday, October 14.


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