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Opening Day Parade 

The Oktoberfest is a sixteen-day festival held each year in Munich, Bavaria, Germany during late September and early October. It is one of the most famous events in the city and the world's largest fair, with some six million people attending every year. Other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest, modeled after the Munich event.

The Munich Oktoberfest traditionally takes place during the sixteen days up to and including the first Sunday in October. In 1990, the schedule was modified in response to German reunification, so that if the first Sunday in October falls on the 1st or 2nd, then the festival will go on until October 3rd (German Unity Day). Thus, the festival is now 17 days when the 1st Sunday is October 2nd and 18 days when it is October 1st. The festival is held on an area named the Theresienwiese (field, or meadow, of Therese), often called d’ Wiesn for short.

Bier! Bier! Bier! 
Spaten-Bräu-Stein Oktoberfest 2006

Beer plays a central role in the fair, with every festival beginning with a keg of beer tapped by the Mayor of Munich who declares O'zapft is! (Bavarian for "It’s tapped!"). A special Oktoberfest beer is brewed for the occasion, which is slightly darker and stronger, in both taste and alcohol. It is served in a one-liter-tankard called Maß. The first mass is served to the Bavarian Prime Minister. Only local Munich breweries are allowed to serve this beer in a Bierzelt, a beer tent which is large enough for thousands.

Inside a typical Oktoberfest tent

History

The first "Oktoberfest" took place in Munich, on October 12, 1810: for the commemoration of their marriage, Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen (namesake of the Theresienwiese festival grounds).

The first hundred years

In the year 1813, the Oktoberfest was called off as Bavaria was involved in the Napoleonic war. In 1816, carnival booths appeared. The main prizes were silver, porcelain, and jewelry. In 1819, the town fathers of Munich took over festival management. They decided the Oktoberfest should be celebrated every year without exception. Later, it was lengthened and the date pushed forward. The reason being that the end of September in Bavaria often has very good weather. The high temperature in the first week of Oktoberfest nears 30 °C which, so believed, stimulates the thirst of the visitors.

To honor the marriage of King Ludwig I and Therese of Bavaria, a parade took place for the first time in 1835. Since 1850, this has become a yearly event and an important component of the Oktoberfest. 8,000 people — mostly from Bavaria — in traditional costumes walk from Maximilian Street, through the center of Munich, to the Oktoberfest.

The Walk from Maximilian Street
Traditional Regional Costumes

Since 1850, the statue of Bavaria has watched the Oktoberfest. This worldly Bavarian patron was first sketched by Leo von Klenze in a classic style and Ludwig Michael Schwanthaler romanticised and "Germanised" the draft; it was constructed by Johann Baptist Stiglmaier and Ferdinand von Miller.

Bavaria above the Theresienwiese

In 1887, the entry of the Oktoberfest Staff and Breweries took place for the first time. This event showcases the splendidly decorated horse teams of the breweries and the bands that play in the festival tents. This event always takes place on the first Saturday of the Oktoberfest and symbolises the official prelude to the Oktoberfest celebration.

Oktoberfest tents

In the year 1910, Oktoberfest celebrated its 100th birthday. 120,000 litres of beer were poured. In 1913, the Bräurosl was founded, which was the largest Oktoberfest beer tent of all time, with room for about 12,000 guests (today, the biggest tent is the Hofbräu-Festhalle, which holds 10,000).

The war years

From 1914 through 1918, World War I prevented the celebration of Oktoberfest. In 1919 and 1920, the two years after the war, Munich celebrated only an "Autumn Fest." In 1923 and 1924, the Oktoberfest was not held due to inflation.

In 1933, the Bavarian white and blue flag was replaced with the standard swastika flag. From 1939 to 1945, due to World War II, no Oktoberfest took place. From 1946 to 1948, after the war, Munich once again celebrated only the "Autumn Fest." The sale of proper Oktoberfest beer was not permitted; the guests had to make do with beer that had an alcohol content under 2%.

The modern festival
Young Lady in Drindl

Since 1950, there has been a traditional festival opening: A twelve gun salute and the tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer at 12:00 by the current Mayor of Munich with the cry "O'zapft is!" ("It's tapped!" in the Austro-Bavarian dialect) opens the Oktoberfest. The first mayor to tap the keg was Thomas Wimmer.

By 1960, the Oktoberfest had turned into an enormous world-famous festival. After this foreigners began to picture Germans as wearing the Sennerhut, Lederhosen, and the girls in Dirndl. Horse races ended in 1960.

There are many problems every year with young people, who overestimate their ability to handle large amounts of alcohol. Many pass out due to drunkenness. These especially drunk patrons are often called "Bierleichen" (German for "beercorpses"). They are brought by staff to a medical tent where drunks as well as sick people are treated.

To keep the Oktoberfest, and especially the beer tents, friendly for older people and families, the concept of the "quiet Oktoberfest" was developed in 2005. Until 6:00 PM, the tents only play quiet music, for example traditional wind music. Only after that will Schlager and pop music be played, which has led to more violence in earlier years. The music played in the afternoon is limited to 85 decibels. With these measures, the organizers of the Oktoberfest hope to curb the over-the-top party mentality and preserve the traditional beer tent atmosphere.

Starting in 2008, a new Bavarian law banning smoking in all enclosed spaces that are open to the public will be in place at the Oktoberfest. This will mean a complete smoking ban inside the tents.

Signpost indicating direction
to restrooms

Source: 

http://www.oktoberfest.de 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oktoberfest