In a couple of weeks Kitchener-Waterloo will host Oktoberfest, North America's largest continuing Bavarian harvest festival. Regrettably it is the event most recognized in our region by outsiders. Beer tents, sausage and schnitzel counters, Thanksgiving Monday parade featuring Oncle Hans, singing, dancing...Excess!

Most residents flee the event. Recently arrived college students think that this is what we are all about. Bus drivers, police and para-medics scramble for holiday spots so as to avoid the sad nights of fights, drunkenness, vandalism, collisions, over-capacity crowds in public halls, etc.

Many over-night coffee shops close rather than face the disturbances and damage. Free "drink responsibly" buses are strewn with garbage and vomit. Emergency rooms are over-taxed. Whole sections of the city are avoided by motorists.

But we constantly hear from the organizing committee that the event is crucial to the hospitality industry- pubs, restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops. STOP THIS!

I see the wrinkled perennial "festers" with their medallioned, ostrich-feathered caps and their red-rimmed eyes and I sense the cumulative spiritual weight of this alcohol fueled mistake upon our community...and the social costs (insurance claims, substance abuse, job loss, violence, wounded relationships, crime, theft, property damage)

The community loses rather than wins through this event. Some will argue for moderate indulgence. There is nothing moderate about a festival whose mascot personality, rotund, middle-aged and lecherous, is seen to be bum-pinching the wide-eyed damsel in the posters. Or poised with mallet in hand, ready to loose the "spirit of the keg".



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