Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Parade


by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams


I was not a stranger to the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest! I had lived in Kitchener for a few years. That, however, was 30 years ago. I was sure a lot had changes since then! Judi and I would have liked to experienced more of Oktoberfest then just the Thanksgiving parade, but time was just not on our side! But, at least, we were going to visit the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Parade. The parade was scheduled to start, uptown in Waterloo, at 8:30 am and was likely to arrive in downtown Kitchener by 9:30 am. Cobourg, given the best of traffic through Toronto, is a good 3 hours away. To say we left Cobourg early would be an understatement! I know it was still very dark outside when we left and there was very little traffic on Hwy. 401. That should tell you something about the time of our departure! Anyway, we made our way westward, bleary eyed, through a clear Toronto and arrived in Kitchener about 8:30 am. We followed the traffic into town and eventually found a great (free) underground parking space! We collected our parade watching gear (folding chairs, water bottles, blankets, gloves, scarves, camera, extra blankets, note book, pens and, “goodies”) and then made our way to King Street. We were located just across from the Kitchener Market, just south of Kitchener’s downtown core. I was surprised to find that there were quite a few open viewing spaces available. We found a spot and set up our chairs. It didn’t take long to the remaining spots to be taken around us. All set up, we waited in anticipation for the start of the 40th anniversary of the Kitchener-Waterloo Thanksgiving Oktoberfest Parade.

Prelude to a Parade…

King Street was becoming full of Parade watchers. We were all patiently waiting for the parade to arrive at our area. The Kitchener-Waterloo police were cruising up and down the street in police cars and on motorcycles. They were making sure that the parade route was clear of traffic. All was fine. The volunteer police assigned to street intersections had been doing their job! Overhead, several hot air balloons floated by. The largest balloon was “Mr. Peanut”! More people were coming to the parade route, cramming themselves into open crevasses. I looked down the street to where I knew the parade was coming from and saw only anxious parade visitors craning their necks to see if they could catch a glimpse of anything. Children sat happily on the curb, many held in place by their parents. Across the street a group of four fun loving girls sang Christmas Carols to the delight of the crowd around them. Finally, off in the distance we started to hear sirens. The parade couldn’t be far off! First came the “Onkel Hans Food Drive” banner. It was followed by volunteers who were collecting food and money from the parade crowd. Following them was a large “Food Drive” tractor-trailer. More volunteers followed the truck. A group of police motorcycles, sirens blazing, were behind them. Next were the Town Cryers! Each was shouting out official town decrees! Not to be outdone, the Veterans came, marching smartly by the crowd. Their flags were waving majestically in the air. Finally several parade marshals, in their golf carts, drove with authority back and forth across the street. This could mean only one thing! All was well for the start of the parade!

The Parade Starts…

The Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Thanksgiving Parade had finally reached us! The parade banner announced its start. The banner was followed closely by a huge 40th anniversary cake float! The came the large “Onkel Hans” balloon, looming high with his traditional mug of “SUDS” in hand! The parade had now started in earnest, marching bands, floats, dancers and flags waving. Everyone in the crowd was thrilled! Bands included the Preston Scout House Alumni Band, the York Regional Police Pipes and Drums and the Mount Saint Mary Academy Marching Band. There were lots of floats and dignitaries! The President of Oktoberfest, Mark Kreller and his family, came by in a horse drawn carriage. Molson’s had their heavy horse there, pulling a large beer barrel wagon. Miss Oktoberfest was on her own float. The Parade Marshal, Owen Lackenbaur and his wife, were in a horse drawn cart. More dignitaries passed by, too many to name. Then there were the marchers. They represented the many aspects of the vibrant K-W community! Everyone who marched, road or walked by seemed to be having a great time and there was still more parade to come!

The Middle of the Parade…

More fun and excitement followed! The bands stirred the crowd! One of the best known bands in Canada, the Burlington Teen Tour Band, marched and played by. Judi and I first seen this band at the Toronto Santa Claus Parade. I had talked to one of their leaders then, and found out that they were scheduled to march in the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena! Other bands included the Warren High School Band and the novel Trilby String Band. A lot more floats passed, including floats from the two hosting cities, Kitchener and Waterloo! The Oktoberfest Bavarian Strongman Challenge “dragged” their float passed us! The “Ultimate Parade Experience” bus came by, filled with contest winners! There a number of K-W Social Clubs represented in the parade, including members of the Schwaban Club, the Alpine Club and the Transylvania Club. All were dancing and having a great time! I am sure that there plenty of sore feet at parades end! The crowd looked up as the huge Hans Haus balloon floated by. The music, the dancing and the excitement were all appreciated by those of us sitting at the side of the road! The Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Parade continued!

The End!

As you can tell from my description and photos, this was a substantial and exciting parade. I had thought, given the length of the parade that people, especially children, would become bored and restless. Just the opposite seemed to happen. Anytime there was a lull in the parade, people would go onto the street looking for more! I would like to name all of the parade participants, but the list would be just too long. So, I will highlight some of the more memorable ones. I apologize for anyone I might have missed. Floats included the Christkindl Market float, the Wunderbar “Maypole” float (the pole had to be raised and lowered to accommodate low hanging wires), the Bearskin Airlines float and the Kiwanis float. There were a lot of bands, including the Philippine Heritage Band, the United Alumni Senior Drum and Bugle Corps, the Dutch Boy Drum and Bugle Corps, the Primetime Bass, the Falun Dafa Band, the Moonshine Band, the Optimists Alumni Band, the Pembroke Marching Dragons, the Ayr-Paris Band and the Paris Port Dover Pipe Band. There were plenty of specialty participants too, the Grainbach Dancers, the K-W Schuhplatter and Folkdancers, the Canadian Cowgirls (we had seen them at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto), the Kitchener Ranger Hockey Team and their double-decker bus, an antique fire engine, Shriners matching jeeps, mini motorcycles, the mini VIA Rail Train and a mini O.P.P. car! All participating and having a great time! The London Military Family Resource Centre and the Friends of Veterans Canada were there, both marching in honor of our Canadian Veterans. Finally the last of the participants passed, and the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Parade was over! We had really enjoyed ourselves, but it was time to move on! The Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show were waiting for us!