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A History of Oktoberfest
Every year people travel to Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest – a Bavarian folk festival marked by its vast beer tents and traditional food. All over the world Oktoberfest celebrations are modeled after the original event first hosted over 200 years ago. But why did the Bavarian state begin hosting this enormous festival?
October 12, 1810 Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese were married and to celebrate they invited all the citizens of Munich to a festival held at the fields in front of the city gates. The traditional horse races were held to honor the newlyweds, there was wine and beer tasting, a parade, student choir and other small activities at the first Oktoberfest, but overall it was a modest event.
In 1811 the event was held again with a performance added to promote Bavarian agriculture. Over the next decade it was officially decided it would become an annual occurrence and new attractions such as tree climbing, bowling, swings, and carnival booths with prizes of silver, jewelry, and porcelain, were added alongside the horse races. A few years later the date of the festival was pushed into September to take advantage of the longer, warmer days.
Over the years the horse races have been phased out, the parade became an annual component of the celebration, the beer booths became so expansive they were condensed into beer halls which created more space for dance halls and other festivities. The festival is now launched with a 12 gun salute and a tapping of the first keg by the city mayor. It has also become a more family friendly and accommodating event; before 6 p.m. only traditional, brass, folk music may be played at a low volume. This rule was implemented to discourage a “party mentality” earlier in the day, allowing families with small children and elderly people to enjoy a more comfortable atmosphere.
Over the past two centuries Oktoberfest has augmented to 6.4 million annual visitors to the grounds and over 6.7 million liters of beer poured each year, the parade now features over 8,000 people, and observance has been extended to 16 days to include October 3rd – German Unity Day. From a single town’s royal wedding celebration to a festival of culture, history, and beer, Oktoberfest has grown to be one of the largest fairs in the world.