THE INSIDER: 20 Questions with Steve Beauchesne, co-founder, Beau’s Oktoberfest (Oct. 4 and 5)
Eating & Drinking

THE INSIDER: 20 Questions with Steve Beauchesne, co-founder, Beau’s Oktoberfest (Oct. 4 and 5)


Jonathan Hobin
Are we having fun yet? Beau’s Oktoberfest founder Steve Beauchesne was photographed by Jonathan Hobin.

This interview is part of our October issue, which is on newsstands and can be ordered online here.

What are you most proud of?
My team. Oktoberfest is a huge undertaking and I’m amazed at how great everybody does and all the enthusiasm that everyone at the brewery has for the event. From Lyndell and Jordan who really lead the Oktoberfest planning, to the folks who might be working in packaging or in the retail shop normally, and pitch in to the few hundred Beau’s fans who give up their time to “volunbeer.”

Five words to describe Oktoberfest:
Beer, music, food — oh my!

How do you describe Oktoberfest to your grandmother?
12,000 people come to a town of 1,800 to have an amazing party and raise a lot of money for charity.

Best kept secret to making the event run smoothly:
Asking for help. The picnic tables come from the NCC, we move around on ATV’s supplied by Carriere Poirier Equipment, our township provides support too, and so do lots of other local businesses.

What should I bring?
Appropriate footwear (you will be in a field in the country), appropriate clothing (this time of year can be really variable, so check the weather), and light gloves to hold cold beer in the cool weather when the sun goes down.

Who should I bring?
Everyone! It is kid-friendly (on Saturday there is a whole section for kids), and really, we’ve heard it all. People bring their co-workers, their dates, their fiancée (we actually have one couple getting married at Oktoberfest on Friday), their parents, their friends, their relatives. We’ve worked really hard to make an event that everyone can enjoy.

Photography by Jonathan Hobin
Photography by Jonathan Hobin

What should I leave at home?
Your car! We’ve got shuttle busses that pick up and return from Ottawa, Montreal, and Cornwall. We allow onsite camping. There is very little need to drive to this event, and if you must, please work out a safe way home before you get to Oktoberfest.

Who should I leave at home?
Grumpy people. This is such a positive atmosphere, where everyone has a smile on their face.

What should I wear?
Definitely check the weather before coming. Early October can be really warm or really cool and staying comfortable is key. Dress in layers if you can, or plan on buying a Beau’s hoodie if you forget. Don’t wear high heels, or you’ll sink in the grass.

What if it rains?
No worries, the area is incredibly well tented. We will have umbrellas for sale this year, too!

What if I’m late?
Make sure you don’t miss the bus if you are planning on taking it, but there is a fairly wide window to get on and we always keep one bus a little later to catch any stragglers. At the gates, you can show up whenever you’d like, but make sure you get there in time to catch the traditional entertainment. We’ve got Canadian Polka-King Walter Ostenak, great traditional dancing, and more.

Who do you expect to see at Oktoberfest?
Its funny, everyone from town comments that they went to Oktoberfest and didn’t see anyone they recognized! There are families, couples, young adults, older folks, women, men … it’s quite a wide range of smiling, happy people.  This isn’t a typical turnout for a beer fest, and I think that’s because it is so much more than a beer fest.

Who are you surprised to see at the event?
Other brewers. If you hang around the cask fest area, you are bound to run into lots of brewers from other breweries trying each others’ beer. Over the years you might have seen the crew from Dieu Du Ciel, Trou du Diable, Church Key, Nickel Brook, Cassel Brewing, not to mention guest brewers from quite a bit further away.

glassWhere do you see Oktoberfest in five years?
I’m not sure. We’ve made a conscious decision to keep things basically the same for now. We keep investing in entertainment and activities and infrastructure, but I think five years from now I’d be happiest if this festival still looked a lot like it does today: thousands of people of all ages having a great time and enjoying some wonderful beer and food.

If money was no object, how would you change the event?
Hover boards like in Back to the Future Part II. Other than that, I don’t feel like we’ve passed on anything because of a monetary consideration.

How did Oktoberfest change your life?
Once a year I get to throw a wild party and get reminded of how wonderful Beau’s fans are, how dedicated the team is, and how much fun it is to live in a little town like Vankleek Hill.

How will you gauge success?
By the smiles on people’s faces when they leave. One of my favourite moments is to stand at the gates on Saturday night and say thank you to everyone leaving. It’s such a wonderful feeling.

Why do you do this?
Connecting with fans and maintaining that relationship while raising money for charity is a very powerful feeling. Doing good and having fun and saying thank you all at the same time. I look forward to Oktoberfest so much every year.

Oktoberfest takes place Oct. 4 and 5 at the Vankleek Hill Fairgrounds (92 Main St. W., Vankleek Hill).