The keg has been tapped and Oktoberfest celebrations are underway in the region. Among the Festhallen is the Schwaben Club, now calling Breslau home at the new location at 50 Scheifele Pl., no stranger to Oktoberfest as the former home of the SAVA Club.
The transition to the new location has been an exciting time, says Schwaben Club president Glenn Herold. He notes that the locale offers a family-friendly environment where children are welcome. The club hosted its first Oktoberfest event last Sunday, drawing a more diverse crowd than usual.
“The local Breslau population has been very supportive of us so far. We have had some fundraising events – we have dinner services that we’ve been doing every second Friday and gained a lot of local traction and a number of regulars have joined the club itself, they just enjoy the property and facility or Oktoberfest itself,” said Herold.
“I found the most diverse group of individuals there that I’ve ever seen, which I thought was very positive because that’s what it’s about for me. Oktoberfest is for us to share our German culture – we had a group in from Brazil, that happened to be wanting to know what Oktoberfest was all about here in Canada. That’s what I like to see, people coming in and experiencing and seeing what we’re all about.”
Last Sunday’s event was a ‘family day,’ which means an abundance of German food and beer was available, as well as a live band and family-friendly activities. The next two weekends they will be hosting Sunday family days, as well as dinner services Fridays and Saturday.
Inside the Schwaben Club’s new location, members will have access to a kitchen, a bar, a heritage room on the second floor and one dinner hall, giving them less capacity than in the previous space on King Street East in Kitchener.
“It isn’t the same as the previous location because it has smaller numbers and add to that COVID restrictions. So, we’re limited, but we make the best with those that are there and hope they can experience a little bit of Oktoberfest as best we can,” he said, noting capacity is about a quarter of what it was.
The Schwaben Club opened in Kitchener in 1931 after many Germans moved to Canada to escape the second World War, they named the club Canadisch-SchwabischeKranken-Unterstutzungs-Vereinigung, also known as the Canadian Schwaben Sick Benefit Association, now celebrating its 90 anniversary. Herold has been president of the Schwaben Club for the past three years, noting his favourite part of Oktoberfest each year is the traditional Gemütlichkeit, a German word for warmth friendliness and good cheer.
The Schwaben Club moved into its new facility last January, the three-acre space hosts a large yard space with covered sitting areas, a patio shaded by grape vines, a bocce ball court, a jungle gym for the kids and a large parking lot. Once inside members will instantly recognize previous memorabilia, a wooden bench and a matching mirror sit in the entrance way as they did in the former location.
“My wife is actually Donauschwaben background, so that’s the Schwaben Club itself and I’m of German background. We still continue on the KW Oktoberfest side, because my wife is the vice-president right now – soon she’ll be the future president of KWO, so all in the family. We actually just acquired an elven horn,” said Herold excited about the new addition to his ensemble which includes the traditional lederhosen.
Donauschwaben people are a German-speaking ethnic group, many of whom were expelled from Yugoslavia and other regions during the Second World War, moving to Canada.
“I enjoy having discussions with people about this being their first Oktoberfest and how they came about coming to the club and what they’re wanting to experience. There was a gentleman of East Indian background and he started speaking German to me and I asked, ‘where did you learn to speak German?’ He said in California, he went to German classes, and had just moved here. He wanted to learn more about German culture,” said Herold, who speaks German.
KW Oktoberfest runs through Thanksgiving.