These past few weeks have been a trial. Work has been brutal, an environment where everything that could possibly go wrong went absolutely breathtakingly, lights-and-sirens wrong. This was coupled with the arrival of JFL 42, the comedy festival for which I had a pass which meant that I was out every night for a ten day stretch. I love JFL but I was looking for a break that I had hoped would take the form of blanket cocooning, chocolate, Netflix binging and perhaps some light whimpering. The week ended with Long and I attending Oktoberfest, which offers none of those options.
If you free associate all the words that pop up with a festival like this one, you would think that it was not the place for me to be. Think hearty sausages, jovial singing, men in shorts with suspenders and huge steins of beer. Also sexy role playing outfits for the ladies, which amuses me but I might be a bit long in the tooth to don for myself.
Long picked me up for this adventure which was held in the parking lot of Ontario Place. This venue is easily walkable from my place but we elected to drive (and pay a usurious parking fee) and I am glad we did – it was chilly, windy as all hell and threatening to rain. Long and I arrived early with VIP passes to claim our excellent hats, enormous beer steins, drink tokens and a mysterious paper ticket with no redeeming information. Due to a mix up (which really was neither one of us scrutinizing the fine print on the ticket, which I fail to do on far too many occasions) we ended up with extra drink tickets and a surfeit of hats. If anyone feels inspired to start a Tyrolean Barbershop Quartet, you should hit us up.
There appeared to be some outdoor games set up outside the massive tent that held the main event – a small ferris wheel, a barrel chase, a BBQ hut and a truly sad pen for smokers, but the wind made the lot completely inhospitable so we headed indoors.
There was a large stage at the front hung with massive banks of amplifiers, two food tables at opposite ends of the tent and several bars serving German beer around the periphery. We grabbed some food, which was an additional cost. Hosted by Rose & Sons the vittles were traditional fair – chicken schnitzel, potatoes, and a mac & cheese with peas. The schnitzel was delicious – hot and juicy, and perfectly cooked which is no mean feat for things coming off a chafing dish. The sides were cold and came with a viciously sour pickle which I loved and made Long pucker like she was collapsing on a black hole. The mac & cheese was a little bland so I braved the winds to make my way to the forlorn BBQ stand for a delicious pulled pork on a pretzel bun. Long had tried to redeem a token for a beer but the line up failed to budge so we elected to move right and check out the scope of the tent.
The stage at the front had a small band including a drummer and a tuba player. There was a German gentleman dressed in leiderhosen who was trying to get the attention of the crowd to teach them how to count to three in German so they could count down the tapping of the ceremonial keg, which I learned it the official opening of Oktoberfest celebrations. He introduced the MC for the evening, who turned out to be an incongruous 22 year old lad who clearly spoke not one word of German. The sound system involved huge banks of amps and the tent was set up on the concrete, so the noise level was LOUD. Very, very LOUD. So loud Long and I had to shout at each other over the bench where we ate, and even then I missed about half of what she was saying. We decided the noise level might have exceeded Guns & Roses which, while oddly impressive, seemed a little unnecessary.
We hooked left to explore the far reached of the tent where Long redeemed drink tokens for a regular wheat beer and a grapefruit lager. Long isn’t a beer fan so the former was tolerated for a few sips but the latter consumed with enthusiasm.
I discovered that the mystery ticket was redeemed for an enormous pretzel which I ate in its entirety despite being full to the gills. The line ups on this side of the tent were far more manageable and I also discovered the very swish (relatively speaking) VIP washroom.
Long and I watch some traditional dancing as the tent began to fill. It was clear that some people were there to elaborate their Bavarian roots. And others were there to get really, really drunk. We decided to take a pass and gifted the extra drink tickets and tokens to some nice, extremely appreciative young girls who were shivering in the line up to buy merchandise.
All in all it was a low key and pleasant enough night. I do love when I get a sense of community which was definitely present, even if that community is not my own. We wandered back through the stiff wind, I braced myself for my last comedy show, and we disappeared in to the night full of bread and Bavaria’s finest traditions.