Being that our fair city of Kitchener-Waterloo houses an abundant amount of students, the sight of drunken mobs stumbling down the street isn’t new. But this month you may find a little extra vomit on your front lawn. And whoever’s lawn that was, I’m sorry. The sauerkraut didn’t taste any better the second time.
It’s Oktoberfest! The nine-day festival where Germans (and KW’s Funny Hat Clubs) can celebrate their heritage. I know when I think about the history of Germany, Oktoberfest is the first thing that… well, almost the first thing that comes to mind.
It’s like St. Patrick’s Day, only stretched out over several days and featuring the usual shade of vomit.
And instead of everyone pretending they’re a little bit Irish, Kitchener-Waterloo actually is steeped in German heritage. The German population is very large in our area, and it’s because of this Kitchener is responsible one of the largest Oktoberfests in the world.
Oktoberfest began in the early 1800s when a fellow named Prince Ludwig married someone named Princess Therese. You think you’ve been to some big weddings? The whole of Munich was invited to their 16-day wedding event. Two hundred and some years later, the massive party has continued nearly every year. It’s only been cancelled due to minor inconveniences like war and cholera epidemics.
Did you know that Kitchener was once called Berlin? The name was changed during World War I after a vocal anti-German minority led a campaign to do just that. Anyone who wanted to keep the name of their town the same was criticized for being a traitor to Canada. After a vote virtually no one participated in, the town was named after Britain’s Minister of War, Lord Kitchener.
Good thing the world’s become so tolerant of other cultures since then, eh?
Since the German population of Kitchener was so large, they were able to keep the Oktoberfest tradition going after leaving Europe; traditions such as Uncle Hans, Miss Oktoberfest, the parade, and of course the German outfits like Dirndls, Lederhosen, and those hats with the feathers. Can you believe Kitchener has kept this celebration of German culture/drunkfest going for 50 YEARS?
And what celebration of German culture would be the same without a $10 Coors Light, followed by a hearty rendition of Sweet Caroline? Alright, so maybe it’s less of a celebration of culture, and more of an opportunity to get drunk in a big festival hall. But hey, who doesn’t love a little tradition?
But when you get tired of the chicken dance, remember you can still spill beer on your shoes and bellow Sweet Caroline here at Chainsaw, and for much cheaper.
This article was written for Chainsaw by Greg Johnson