Munich’s Oktoberfest starts Saturday

by Petra Lessoing
Kaiserslautern American

For the 174th time, the world’s biggest folk’s fest, the “Oktoberfest” in Munich, takes place Saturday through Oct. 7. Each year, the event lures millions of visitors from all over the world. Last year, 6.5 million visitors came to Oktoberfest, drank 6.9 million liters of beer and ate more than 494,000 chickens and 43,000 haxen (ham hocks).

***image1***Beer tent hosts and breweries officially start the event with a parade leading from Sonnenstrasse to Theresienwiese at 11 a.m. Saturday. The hosts, waiters, waitresses and showmen sit in decorated horse-drawn wagons accompanied by music bands who then perform in the tents.

The second parade, the costume and marksmen’s parade, begins at 10 a.m. Sunday on Maximilianstrasse. About 8,000 participants from Germany, Italy, Austria, Croatia, Poland and Switzerland, dressed in traditional costumes, walk in the two-hour long pageant on seven kilometers to the festgrounds. The German TV station ARD airs the event live in several countries.

Oktoberfest has its origin in the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig, later crowned King Ludwig I, to Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen Oct. 12, 1810. Munich’s citizens were invited to the celebrations outside the gate of town at a meadow. To honor the bride, the meadow later was named “Theresienwiese” (Therese’s meadow). A horse race, observed by the whole royal family, closed out the wedding festivities. With the decision to repeat the race in the following year, the tradition of Oktoberfest began.

In 1811, people also celebrated an agricultural fest which included an exhibition of Bavarian agriculture. Today, there are no more horse races, but the agricultural fest takes place every four years.

***image2***In 1818, the first carousel and two swings were set up. Beer was sold in little booths until 1896, when keen pub owners, in cooperation with the breweries, installed the first “beer castles.” Rides and shows covered the other part of the festgrounds. Today, the fest has a big amusement park with more than 80 rides and games, 14 beer tents with more than 100,000 seats set up by six regional breweries, and 16 smaller tents with 100 to 500 seats each.

A “Mass Bier,” which is a liter of beer, ranges from €7.30 to €7.90 this year.

Fest hours are 10 a.m. to midnight. Family days with reduced prices are from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Oct. 2.

The German railroad company, Deutsche Bahn, offers a party train with musical entertainment going from Kaiserslautern to Munich Oct. 6. Tickets are €69 at USO offices or at the Kaiserslautern main train station.