Onkel Hans and Miss Oktoberfest wave, the dancers in dirndls and lederhosen bob and weave to a lively polka, the crowd cheers and claps, and above the din the aromas of sausage and sauerkraut waft across the room.
But this is not another Saturday evening festhall in one of Waterloo Region’s well-known German clubs, nor is it a Monday morning scene from the region's famous Oktoberfest parade—it’s noon on a September Wednesday in the cafeteria of Teledyne DALSA, a Waterloo high tech company. The company and its 350 local employees are celebrating local culture and community with a bit of gemütlichkeit, and Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest, through its Corporate Experience program, is only too happy to help.
Let’s be clear—this is not a beer garden. Those are soft drinks being raised, and the employees still have important work ahead of them later in the afternoon. But the warm sentiment is genuine, and it fits perfectly with the wider, more family and community-oriented nature of Oktoberfest that the festival has always nurtured. Kitchener-Waterloo hosts the largest annual Bavarian festival outside Germany; this year’s edition includes over 40 family events, and the special Corporate Experience program is helping bring “Oktoberfestivities” to workplaces too.
"Gemütlichkeit," the spirit of the season, connotes a tradition of public festivity involving music, food, and drink that promotes the creation and strengthening of community. It explains exactly why Teledyne DALSA is so enthusiastic in staging this event for (and with) its employees. It’s simple on the surface--who doesn’t like free lunch and a party? But there is more afoot here for both company and community.
“At Teledyne DALSA, we understand that building an engaged workforce isn’t just about the actual work; it’s also about building and reinforcing our ties to the community where our people live, work, and raise their families,” explained Frank Nemeth, TDI’s Director of Human Resources. “With a workforce this diverse, this may be the first experience some of our people have with the Oktoberfest celebrations. When their own co-workers are introducing them to fun things that they can experience with their families, it really helps build connections and community.”
Employee connections to Oktoberfest run deep and clear at Teledyne DALSA. Patrick Myles, VP of Business Development, and his family have been part of the local Concordia Enzian Schuhplattler Verein dance group for almost 20 years, and two of his daughters are among the immaculately dirndled dancers demonstrating for and with the employees.
“Having participated in Oktoberfest for many years, I can speak to its family-focused nature. In fact, my fondest memories include the annual pancake breakfast in Uptown Waterloo, family day at Concordia Club, and of course the Thanksgiving day parade – all fun family events. I am always happy to share my fondness for the festival with my fellow Teledyne DALSA employees, and I am thrilled that Oktoberfest is reaching out to local companies like ours with their Corporate Experience program.”
Mark Kreller, Executive Director of Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest says that Teledyne DALSA is a great example of the corporate engagement the festival has seen over the years. “The team at TDI are known as innovators in the technology sector throughout the world, and they certainly have stepped up the Corporate Experience program to add exciting creative elements. This leadership is a testament to their workplace culture and employee engagement.”
At the noon hour draws to a close, Miss Oktoberfest leads one final “prosit” and the TDI employees drift back towards their desks or work stations. There is plenty of smiling and laughter, and at least one polka breaks out in the hall. Onkel Hans waves goodbye, but he knows he’ll be seeing some of them again soon. Gemütlichkeit is alive and well at Teledyne DALSA, and the company sincerely hopes it will follow the employees home.