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Downtown Kitchener transformed into bustling Bavarian village

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Downtown Kitchener has been transformed into a Bavarian village.

After years of pandemic restrictions, Willkommen Platz returned to King Street Thursday.

Crews were seen setting up before noon. The open-air festival venue stretches down King Street between Frederick Street and Kitchener City Hall.

“I am so excited to be here. This is actually my first year in Kitchener-Waterloo for Oktoberfest and I’ve heard a lot of good things about it,” said event-goer Jessica Naftalis.

K-W Oktoberfest organizers said this year’s village is “bigger and better than ever” with biergartens, food vendors, shopping and live music.

“I think it really contributes to the spirit of what we call Gemütlichkeit, which is that general overall feeling of warmth and welcoming. We did our best the past couple of years to spread that spirit of Gemütlichkeit throughout the community. But really it comes from seeing someone, sharing that dance together, having that hug with someone you haven’t seen in a long time,” said Allan Cayenne, president, of K-W Oktoberfest.

Cayenne has worked with K-W Oktoberfest for 16 years. He said the community has changed over the past 54 years of the festival and in his first year as festival president he wants to keep up with the growth.

“It’s been about keeping the core of what the festival is, it’s a Bavarian festival,” he said. “We want to celebrate that heritage and that culture. But we want to open it up so everyone feels like they can be German for the day or the week or the month in this case.”

The festival has seen some changes this year. The festival shifted the Miss Oktoberfest competition to Oktoberfest Ambassador and will be open to Waterloo region residents of any gender between the ages of 19 to 29.

Willkommen Platz opened to the public at 3 p.m. on Thursday will close Sunday at 6 p.m.

The official grand opening keg tapping will be on Friday.

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