KITCHENER-WATERLOOK, ON—The Kitchener-Waterloo Hotel and Conference Centre, formerly the Delta, has been the host hotel for Oktoberfest for decades, says general manager Yari Khan. “Oktoberfest certainly affects us in a positive way. We're proud to be part of a signature community effort,” he says.
Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest, the largest festival of its kind in North America, runs from Oct. 11 until 19. Based on the original German Oktoberfest, it attracts an estimated 750,000 to 1,000,000 visitors every year. While its best-known draws are the beer-based celebrations, other cultural and entertainment attractions also fill the week. The most well-known is the parade held on Thanksgiving Day; as the only major parade on Canadian Thanksgiving, it is televised throughout Canada and portions of the northern United States.
The hotel conference centre hosts breakfast and lunch for up to 100 participants in the five-kilometre long Thanksgiving Day parade with more than 100 floats and bands, which typically draws a crowd of more than 150,000.
“The hotel's importance is pivotal as the parade loops around us,” says Khan.
Located right next to the Oktoberfest building, the hotel has been sold out for quite some time, and Khan is looking forward to the influx of out-of-towners and increased business.
It's also a chance to show off newly renovated rooms in The Tower section of the hotel. The Courtyard, the older section of the hotel, is also being remodelled. The KW Hotel and Conference Centre is spending $10 million on renovations so that it can meet the standards to reflag as a Crowne Plaza in 2014.
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Forty-four years of growth
This 45th annual Oktoberfest has grown from a weekend event in one festhalle to a nine-day, internationally known party that attracts 700,000 participants. Eighteen “Festhallens” form the core of activities and festivities, offering award-winning oompah bands, Bavarian dancers and traditional German cuisine. These Bavarian decorated buildings or tents have a capacity from 250 to 3,400 people. Festhallen are hosted at Kitchener-Waterloo's five German clubs and several other locations, such as Bingemans and Chicopee Ski and Summer Resort.
Nine food trucks lining Waterloo Public Square will be featured as part of the celebrations for the second year in a row.
“This festival has been getting better each year since it began 44 years ago,” says Minto Schneider, general manager of Waterloo Regional Tourism Marketing Corporation. “The entertainment, the food and the family-oriented activities are absolutely first class.
“It's amazing that it's that big and still going,” she said, adding that 52 per cent of the visitors are female and 48 per cent male; and 47 per cent of the participants are aged 25 to 49. Sixty-five per cent of the visitors live in Waterloo Region, which is home to more than 500,000 people. Ten per cent come from less than 80 km away, and 24 per cent travel more than 80 km.