Oktoberfest

Like so many other things these days, Oktoberfest has almost slipped past me.  I have nothing on it in my drafts file, so I guess I’d better get something electronic captured in this here computer thingy.

Since Canada’s weather turns cold sooner than the USA’s, we celebrate our Thanksgiving earlier.  Our turkey day will be this coming Monday.  Kitchener/K-W/Waterloo Region’s Oktoberfest always begins on the Friday before.  That way, after three days of binge drinking, you can be thankful that you’re still alive, and that the hangover headache is receding slightly.  We tap the first keg at Speaker’s Corner at noon on Friday, and throw out the first drunk by about one.

Corporate taxes weren’t enough to provide infrastructure funding, so, because of the strong local Germanic heritage, in 1969 it was decided to imitate the tourist draws of places like Niagara Falls, and hold an Oktoberfest.  There were five German clubs initially, all in Kitchener.  Now there are fest-halls in school auditoriums and Catholic Church basements for fifteen miles.  The Germanic influence is fading.  One of the original German clubs recently closed for lack of new members, and another is struggling.

The original Bavarian Oktoberfest was held for five days, starting October 17.  Nowadays the Germans can’t wait to get at their beer.  Their two-week contribution to Alcoholics Unanimous started on September 22, and wraps up this weekend.

I had an earlier post about the crazy local street layouts.  It’s hard enough to get anywhere on a street-map that looks like a plate of vermicelli at the best of times, and Oktoberfest is not the best of times.  We have at least three main streets with major road-repair happening, and several short sections of downtown streets will be closed for fest-tents, tourist information and music/dancing.  Throw in a hundred thousand confused tourists, attempting to drive in various states of inebriation, and we have a recipe for bumper-cars disaster.

Already, my son’s co-workers are reporting getting stopped in DUI ride-checks.  Oktoberfest brings a lot of income to the area, and many residents take a week of vacation, to work as bartenders, waiters, cab drivers, etc.  Probably even more take the time off and get out of town to escape the madness.

Originally, the organizers wanted to call it a Beer Festival, but the blue-nosed bureaucrats would have none of that.  It is a Bavarian Festival, and only cultural references may be advertised.  When it was younger and smaller, it was a friendly little celebration, and there were cultural aspects to it.  There are still things to do, even for a family.  One of the events is Bogenschutzenfest, an archery contest where the competitors try to hit a stuffed bird, high up on a post.  I guess it takes a drunken German to explain why killing eagles in trees was a good idea in the first place, and why there is a dearth of eagles in Germany today.

Several years ago, one of the nephews got married on the second Saturday of Oktoberfest.  The reception was in the basement of the Catholic Church where the mass was held.  Suddenly a group of Schuplattlers (German clog dancers) showed up and began to put on a show, while their manager held a conversation with the boy’s father.  After three or four dances they suddenly packed up and disappeared.  Apparently they had shown up at the wrong Catholic Church and there was a paid-up audience waiting for them elsewhere.  And these guys were sober!

Residents who live near big fest-halls can probably make five to ten dollars a day, by returning for deposit, all the beer bottles and cans left on their lawns.  Sadly, it doesn’t really pay for the time or yuck factor of also having to pick up food containers, used condoms, panties and other clothing, and human feces.  These days, the cultural competitions include public urination.  There are separate divisions for both male and female. Like the peppermint schnapps/Oktoberfest sausage vomiting, there are prizes for both distance and accuracy.  The artists in the drunkaholic crowd get their creative release by using car keys to draw pictures on automobiles in driveways.

In 1973 the committee issued commemorative Oktoberfest Dollars, silver-colored Trade Dollar coins, good for merchandise or services.  They discontinued the practice in 2002.  I still hadn’t got into coin collecting for the first couple of years, but when I did decide to, I found a plant worker who had extra coins of the years I missed, so I have a complete set.  In 1986, they went to a gold-colored coin which cost $2.  In 1998, they went back to the silver color, but the value was still $2.

Our Oktoberfest only lasts for nine days, but it must be like what living in downtown Las Vegas is like year-round.  Many residents, especially the younger ones, love it.  Many of the older set (not mentioning any names) aren’t too thrilled.  My son has two lapel buttons, which he put on his jacket last night.  One reads, “I’m from K-W, and I hate Oktoberfest!”  The other one says, “Willkomen (Welcome) to Oktoberfest.  Now Go Home!”

I’ve been lucky over the years, only being stopped by the police twice, both times coming home early in the evening from the outlaws’ house.  Once I was pulled into a RIDE check on my bike, about 10:30 P.M. on my way to work for an eleven o’clock shift.  Get drunk and ride a motorcycle?  I think not!

We’ve got an empty calendar next week, not even one doctor’s appointment.  It’s fairly safe to go out during the day.  They’re already doing stops at the Conestoga Parkway ramps this week, but the son uses surface streets to get to work.  He may get through four midnight shifts next week without being pulled over, then we can all relax and wait for things to get back to, what passes for normal in this town.

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