With a cry of “O’zapft is” (it’s tapped) the Oktoberfest has officially started. Visitors dressed in traditional German dirndl and lederhosen are dancing on the benches while the Bavarian Oompah band heats up the tent. Waitresses carrying several beer steins hurry to quench the guests’ thirst and pretzels with weisswurst (Bavarian style sausage) invitingly spread the aroma of authentic German food.
It’s a typical scenery from the world’s largest beer festival in Munich, Germany you might think, but don’t be deceived. Outside you can hear the muezzin call to prayer and once you leave the well air-conditioned tent a wall of humidity hits you with temperatures around 35 degrees Celsius – admittedly quite unusual for Germany. No, you are not in the Bavarian capital of Munich but in the desert state of Dubai, host to one of the many Oktoberfest replicas across the globe. No matter the continent, be sure you will have the opportunity to find an Oktoberfest celebration that will almost make you forget where you really are, from the entertaining US version in Cincinnati, to a traditional festival in Brazil or the Japanese-style fest in Tokyo.
Oktoberfest Blumenau, Brazil
Hallo Blumenau (Hello Blumenau)
Hallo Brasilien (Hello Brazil)
Siebzehn Tage der Festlichkeit (17 days of celebration)
Musik, Bier und Freude (music, beer and joy)
This is the first part of Blumenau’s very own Oktoberfest anthem. As you can see the 300,000 inhabitants are proud of their German heritage and still speak the language of their ancestors that founded the city in 1850. Since 1984 Blumenau has been host to the largest Brazilian folk festival after the Carnival in Rio, with an average of 700,000 visitors every year. The formula of success is nothing extravagant; it is a celebration with focus on tradition, music, dances and German “Gemütlichkeit.” This and the beauty and tranquility of the state of Santa Catarina attract visitors from all over the world.
In addition to folklore shows, visitors can enjoy daily entertainment with parades during which free beer is given out, several tents with German delicacies and all kinds of music from Bavarian Oompah to Brazilian Samba, as well as competitions like “Rei do Tiro” (shooting competition). The festival highlight however, is the election of “Rainha da Oktoberfest” (Queen of Oktoberfest) and her two princesses who will represent Blumenau during the following year.
Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, USA
56,250 sausages, 23,004 pretzels, 1,875 pounds of potato salad… it sounds like the yearly food consumption of the average German person but really describes the consumption at a previous Oktoberfest in Cincinnati, err, sorry, Zinzinnati. Since 1976 the “Oktoberfest Zinzinnati” celebrates the city’s German heritage, converting six blocks of Downtown Cincinnati into the nation’s largest Oktoberfest, attracting around 500,000 guests every year.
Visitors can expect fun entertainment, from popular games such as the beer stein race during which (female) contestants race across Fountain Square with filled beer steins, to the exclusive “Hype Haus Party” at a special tent sponsored by Time Warner Cable. In case you have never seen a Dachshund dressed up in a hot dog bun costume you should visit the Running of the Wieners and watch the little doggies with a need for speed compete in a 100 feet run.
Another fan favorite you should not miss is the World’s Largest Chicken Dance in which you can shake your tail feather together with local and international celebrities. The Chicken Dance made it into the Guinness Book of Records with 48,000 participants in 1994 and is led by one celebrity every year. Previous celebs include the Crown Prince of Bavaria, “Mini Me” actor Verne Troyer, Cincinnati Bengals All-Pro wide receiver Chad Johnson and one of America’s most famous TV characters – Homer Simpson – who celebrated the 20th anniversary of The Simpsons at the Oktoberfest celebration in 2009.
Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest, Canada
“Canada’s Greatest Bavarian Festival” is the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Munich and combines German traditions with North-American Thanksgiving – welcome to Kitchener-Waterloo in the Canadian province of Ontario.
Since the start in 1969, these twin-cities of German heritage have transformed for nine days every year into a big festival location, attracting over 700,000 visitors. Although the Oktoberfest keeps with the original aspects with Bavarian Oompah music, traditional German delicacies and – of course – beer, Kitchener-Waterloo has also managed to develop its very own traditions. 16 different Festhallen (tents) offer a wide range of entertainment and 40 family and cultural events make sure there is something for everyone.
You enjoy pageants and gala balls? Come and witness the crowning of the Miss Oktoberfest at an amazing black-tie event. Or do you prefer music events? In this case you have to attend the “Oktoberfest Idol” or the “Rocktoberfest” which combines Rock and Polka for one night. Even your dog won’t get bored – the “DOGtoberfest” is a must for all pet lovers. Winner of best event in 2005, it offers a dog pageant and games to ensure a fun experience for dogs and pet owners alike.
The annual highlight however is the Thanksgiving Day Parade, one of Canada’s most spectacular parades, broadcast on national TV channel CTV. Join the 150,000 spectators on Thanksgiving morning to watch creatively-arranged floats, Canadian and US marching bands and special entries making their way from downtown Waterloo to Kitchener.
Oktoberfest Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Apart from temperatures that nearly make you reach boiling point and the possibility of celebrating the Oktoberfest in a sand storm, Dubai also offers you the chance to experience the beer festival in more than five locations without even leaving the city. If you get bored you just hop to the next party.
The favorite spot among the German community in the desert state is the Oktoberfest tent at the Grand Hyatt in the center of the city – and who to trust better than Germans when it comes to great Oktoberfest celebrations? Be sure that after some pretzels and beer you will find yourself dancing on the table with the rest of the party-goers. No less noisy is the Oktoberfest in Dubai’s very own Hofbräuhaus at the JW Marriott Hotel. This is by the way the only place all over the country with the license to sell real Hofbräu beer.
Another fun location to drink beer and listen to German music is Irish Village at Aviation Club. Every year in October the Irish Village converts into a German beer garden, and with all the greenery and lakes around the village you might really feel like being in Munich.
If you don’t want to miss being at the beach you should go to “new” Dubai, namely Jumeirah Beach Residence near Dubai Marina where you find another Oktoberfest tent at the Sheraton hotel. You will enjoy all typical Bavarian goods like pretzels, sausages and Oompah music with the addition of the Persian Gulf.
Hibiya Oktoberfest Tokyo, Japan
Germany is ranking number three among the preferred holiday destinations for Japanese tourists and the Oktoberfest in Munich is a special favorite, so it is no surprise that the country of cherry blossoms is host to many of its own Oktoberfest celebrations every year. One of the most famous festivals is the Hibiya Oktoberfest in Tokyo which is held near the water fountain in Hibiya Park, right in the heart of the capital. There is one distinctive difference to the original though – the Japanese beer festival takes place in May.
In 2010 the Hibiya Oktoberfest celebrated its 5th anniversary with around 40,000 visitors and is becoming more and more popular among the Japanese population. The center of the celebration is a marquee which is heating up as soon as the Oompah band plays real Bavarian Oktoberfest songs. Around the tent you can find several stands offering German delicacies like pretzels and sausages and the visitors’ main attraction – beer. Spaten, Hofbräu, Erdinger…be sure to find your favorite brand.
Oktoberfest Brisbane, Australia
Oktoberfest traditionally takes place in autumn, when falling leaves and colorful trees line the streets of Munich. However, if you celebrate Down Under, the Australian October will most likely offer you perfect Spring weather.
You will find many beer festivals all over the continent but one of the largest and most popular is the Oktoberfest in Brisbane. With a traditional Bavarian beer garden under majestic Moreton Bay figs and a fabulous range of German gourmet delights, the festivities in Queensland attract around 40,000 visitors every year.
The Oompah band will invite you to join in traditional German dances and competition lovers will have the chance to cheer on the “Miss Oktoberfest” and “Bavarian Strongman” contestants. For the young and young at heart, popular TV personalities from Channel Ten’s kids’ programs will make appearances. An animal nursery, more rides and the classic German sideshow hit “Torwand schiessen” (goal shooting) are sure to keep the whole family happy all day long.
Oktoberfest Windhoek, Namibia
Once upon a time Windhoek was the capital of former German colony of German South West Africa. It is therefore no surprise that Namibia still has a strong influence of German culture and clubs, like the “Sport Klub Windhoek” (SKW), which is not only famous for its achievements in terms of sports but is also host to several cultural events, one of them being the Oktoberfest.
Around 1,400 visitors each year celebrate a traditional Oktoberfest with fun games like tree sawing or the election of “Bierkönigin” (Queen of Beers) in which the waitresses compete to see who can carry the most beer steins. Kids have fun with jumping castles and candy floss while their parents dance to Oompah music and enjoy sausages and beer. The Namibian version of the beer fest is not as extravagant as the Bavarian original, but it’s nevertheless a guarantee for a day full of fun under the African sun.
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