Above: Opening Ceremonies featuring from left Carol Anne Meehan, former CFL-er Ken Evraire, Jörn Rosenberg Deputy Head of Mission for Germany, Deputy Mayor Steve Desroches, Ontario MPP Madeleine Meilleur, and Ottawa City Councillor Mathieu Fleury.
By Deek Labelle
“One more time, how do you say that phrase in German?” “Die Sonne scheint”, I replied; Carol Anne Meehan was brushing up on her German moments before the opening ceremonies on Clarence Street. The sun was in fact shining long enough for Schteev und die Lederhosers to serenade the opening festivities. Being an active member with the ByWard Market BIA, I was front row centre at the main stage to catch it all. Honored guests alongside Carol Anne Meehan were the Director of Mission Jorn Rosenberg, and several of our local politicians. Toasts were made and the keg was tapped, while the crowd couldn’t resist bopping to the music. The Ambassador for Germany, Werner Wnendt shared how Oktoberfest began more than 200 years ago in Münich, Germany and has grown to be the largest fair in the world.
The ByWard Market Oktoberfest is celebrating a mere fourth year, but thanks to a grant from Celebrate Ontario, it was able to grow to a full weekend celebration! Unfortunately, only one week before the event the City of Ottawa revoked the street permit that would have allowed people to have one drink, in a designated mug, on Clarence Street. Taking away what people associate most with Oktoberfest – live entertainment accompanied by lots of beer and lots of food, the ByWard Market Oktoberfest continued to focus attention toward the more traditional aspects of the historic event.
“Volksmarches”, which translates to a “people’s walk”, are typically 10kms, and were started in Europe as a means of group fitness. The ByWard Market adapted this concept into guided tours through their own historic district. C’est Bon Cooking offered free foodie tours of the market on both Saturday and Sunday. The Haunted Walk led Sunday matinee tours of landmarks within the neighborhood. Since not everyone enjoys a long walk, for those who wanted the Coles notes version of all the tours, local stables provided free wagon rides all weekend – with accordion accompaniment to boot!
I had the pleasure of organizing the first ever ByWard Market Fashion Show on Saturday morning. Inside the lesser-known Time Square building on Clarence Street, more than 30 models displayed looks from over a dozen retailers from the market. Highlights included the kids’ costumes from Tickled Pink, the roller girls from Neon Skates, and the gorgeous hats from local milliner, Chapeaux de Madeleine. In addition to the show, everyone was invited to participate in the Fashion Volksmarch. Ours lead participants to all of the fashion retailers in the market. Several stores offered deals or discounts to those with the official ByWard Market Oktoberfest mug.
Since rain couldn’t dampen our spirits, quite literally, late Saturday we found ourselves on the patio at Paddy Bolands and stomped along to the Tartan Terrors rocking out on the main stage. Blending bagpipes and bratwurst, the band joked that the event had now transformed into Scotchtoberfest! Saturday evening closed out with a show and a beer after all!
Oktoberfest was lacking and it showed. It can’t really compare to the similar locally held Oktoberfests due to the absence of beer. I spoke to some highly disappointed local residents as well as one restaurant owner who made a point to the City. In front of his bar, adjacent to a pitcher of ginger ale, a note read: “No fun zone sponsored by the City of Ottawa.” The street remained closed but few were there to party.
Overall, everyone who attended had a great time! Hopefully the next time an event like this comes along to the ByWard Market, the City won’t be so bold as to deny them the same type of events already held in similar districts around town. With all the changes and improvements citizens are screaming for to happen in the Market, this feels like one step forward, two steps back.
**Disclaimer: The written opinions above are of those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of the Byward Market BIA.