Oktoberfest starts Saturday in Munich

by Petra Lessoing
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

For the 178th time, one of Germany’s most famous festivals, the Oktoberfest in Munich, will take place Saturday through Oct. 3. 

Each year, the world’s biggest folks fest lures millions of visitors from all over the world. Last year, 6.4 million people came to Oktoberfest, drank 71,000 hectoliters of beer, and ate more than 505,000 chickens, 69,200 ham hocks and 119 oxen.

Beer tent hosts and breweries will officially start the event with a parade leading from Sonnenstrasse to Theresienwiese at 10:45 a.m. Saturday.

The lord mayor of Munich, beer tent hosts, their families, waiters, waitresses and showmen will ride in decorated horse-drawn wagons, accompanied by music bands, who will then perform in the tents. At noon, the lord mayor will tap the first keg of beer in the Schottenhamel tent. Before then, beer will not be served, although visitors may start sitting in the tents at 9 a.m. The second parade, the costume and marksmen’s parade, begins at 9:40 a.m. Sunday on Maximilianstrasse. Several thousand participants from different countries dressed in traditional costumes will walk in the two-hour long pageant on 7 kilometers to the festgrounds.

Oktoberfest has its origin in the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig, later crowned King Ludwig I, to Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen on Oct. 12, 1810.

Munich’s citizens were invited to the celebrations outside the town’s gate in a meadow. To honor the bride, the meadow was later named “Theresienwiese,” or 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 that included an exhibition of Bavarian agriculture. Today, there are no more horse races, but the agricultural fest still takes place every four years.

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 festival grounds.

Today, the festival includes a big amusement park with

more than 80 rides and games, 14 beer tents with more than 100,00 seats set up by six regional breweries, and 21 smaller tents with 100 to 500 seats each.

A “Mass Bier,” which is a liter of beer, costs around €9 this year.

Fest hours are from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on weekdays, and until midnight Fridays and Saturdays. Family days with reduced prices take place from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays.

The German railroad company, Deutsche Bahn, offers a party train with musical entertainment going from Kaiserslautern to Munich at 7 a.m. Oct. 1. Arrival time in Munich will be 1:58 p.m. The train departs Munich to return to Kaiserslautern at 11:50 p.m. Tickets are available at United Service Organizations offices or at the Kaiserslautern main train station for €73.

For details, visit www.bahn.de.