GETTING MORE TALE #442: Oktoberfest
Gemütlichkeit and willkommen! Love it or hate it, it’s that time of year again: Oktoberfest!
Based on the original 200 year old Bavarian festival in Germany, Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest attracts thousands every year to bask in our glorious beer, Polka music, sausage and fall weather.
It’s also the time of year that parts of the downtown gets closed to traffic, and congestion increases to an undesired, maddening level. With all the construction and destruction this year, Oktoberfest 2015 will be the hardest yet to navigate with your vehicle. I dread my daily commute in and out of town. Add in the potential for drunk drivers and you have a great old time lined up, right? Approximately one million people will show up for the celebrations here, the second largest Oktoberfest in the world.
The climax of the movie Strange Brew was filmed and takes place at Kitchener Oktoberfest. “Take the 401 to Kitchener,” says Doug McKenzie in this clip.
It’s not all bad. Sausage and schnitzel on a bun is always a treat, but people don’t come all this way for anything except the beer. Sample one of the many, many brews while you are here…just don’t make an ass of yourself while you do it. As a local, I’ve never been fond of this time of year. I don’t drink beer anymore so there is very little to draw me to the downtown core during Oktoberfest. However, there are plenty of draws for the rest of you.
Polka music and dancing! If that’s your thing, then put on your lederhosen and dirndls! Get ready to do the Bird Dance and check out the accordion of Walter Ostanek. Sometimes there are some good Oktoberfest shows to be seen, such as the year I Mother Earth played (with Ostanek!). There are beer exhibits and dining experiences. There’s Onkel Hans, Tante Frieda and the tapping of the keg. There’s Miss Oktoberfest and the annual parade.
Actually, forget it – I don’t care about any of these things! I’ve gone to the parade before, but it’s always so cold that you wished you stayed home and watched it on TV. I have done my fair share of Polka dancing. In fact, Polka dancing was compulsory in grade school. Learning such cultural cornerstones as the Bird Dance was deemed important enough to justify teaching kids about a beer festival in grade school. While my opinion is certainly not held by all residents, I was burned out on Oktoberfest before I was even old enough to drink.
By the way: There are plenty of safe transportation options for drinkers, including free busses from the festhallen, free soft drinks for designated drivers, and the excellent company Over the Limit Designated Drivers (1-888-594-9144), who will drive you and your car home safely.
Working the Record Store days, I always hated the seasonal requests for Polka or “Oom-pah-pah” music. Our used Polka CD selection (filed under World Music) rarely had anything in it, and when it did, it would be snapped up long before Oktoberfest. Once, Walter Ostanek came into the store himself looking for Polka music. When I responded that we had nothing in stock, he handed me his card and said, “If you need any, let me know.” I responded, “Hey, I know you! You’re the guy who won all those Juno awards.” He paused and looked at me gravely. “They were Grammies,” he corrected me. Whoops!
Oktoberfest 2015 runs from October 9-17. Come to the festhallen and biergartens, get your Polka on, and get pissed. But please, don’t drink and drive. Use one of the options listed above to make sure everyone gets home safely.
Hans Haus on Benton street