Oktoberfest – A Royal Beginning

How Munich’s Oktoberfest Started:

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Millions of people attend the Munich’s Oktoberfest each year, but how many know that it all started from a royal wedding in 1810?

On October 12, 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (who later become King Ludwig I), married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the wedding festivities which took place on a meadow just outside the city fringe. Ever since that historic day the site has been called Theresienwiese in honour of the bride.

The wedding celebrations of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese went on for several days and included a horse race on October 17, 1810. The race day was organized as a festival for all of Bavaria in the presence of the royal family. It must have been a very successful event as a decision was made to repeat the race the following year – and hence the start of the Oktoberfest tradition.

A year later, the horse race was joined by the inaugural agricultural festival, which began as a trade fair for Bavarian farmers. Zentrallandwirtschaftsfest still takes place every four years during Oktoberfest on the southern part of Theresienwiese. The small stands that sold beer at the Oktoberfest very rapidly grew in numbers and the first big beer tents were set up in 1896.

The first carousel and two swing rides appeared in 1818 – initially only a modest assortment of amusement and sideshows occupied the remainder of the festival site. As the fairground industry took off in Germany, the fun fair element of the Oktoberfest got bigger and bigger from the 1870s onwards.

To this day, the Oktoberfest is still held on the Theresienwiese. The event is kicked off with the tapping of the first barrel and the cry of Ozapft.  The name has been shortened to Wiesn over the years and become a byword for the Oktoberfest all over Germany. There’s not many events in the world that can boast such widespread international appeal as the world‘s biggest beer festival. These days Oktoberfest attracts more than six million visitors from all over the world and its success and popularity has spawned many imitation events around the world.

Oktoberfest is 200 years old in 2010, but it has actually only been held 177 times. During the cholera epidemics of 1854 and 1873 and the First and Second World Wars, Oktoberfest was cancelled  – a total of 24 times over the past two centuries.

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