The 'Big Beer Fest in the Sky'
Future Oktoberfest Dates:
2016: September 17 - October 3
2017: September 16 - October 3
2018: September 22 - October 7
Map of the 2017 Oktoberfest and List of Beer Tents.
The Oktoberfest is staged each year (usually in September more than
October) in the same field where it began in 1810, called the Wies'n
(shortened from the word for meadow in German).
Oktoberfest. This is the granddaddy of them all, the Big Beer
Fest in the Sky. It began as a reception for the wedding of Crown Prince
Ludwig, later King Ludwig I, to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen,
October 12, 1810. A good time was had by all, and by popular proclamation,
it was decided another party should occur each October thereafter, with
or without a wedding. And so it has been, in the same meadow, named for
the bride, Theresienwiese, or as the people in Munich say in abbreviated
form, die Wies'n.
Oktoberfest is a madcap mixture of folklore, festival and frivolity unequaled
anywhere else on the globe. The fest has been canceled only 25 times during
its run of 190-plus years: 23 times due to wars, twice (1854 and 1873)
due to cholera epidemics. Don't let the name mislead you, the 16-day Oktoberfest
usually begins the second to last Saturday in September and ends the first
Sunday in October. An exception occurs in those years when October 3rd
-- marking "The Day of German Unity" when East and West Germany
were reunited in 1990 -- falls on a Monday or Tuesday. The Oktoberfest
is then extended one or two days, respectively, to include the holiday.
The fest officially begins with a Saturday morning parade through the
center of Munich with horse-drawn carriages hauling the wooden kegs of
beer. Once the city's Lord-Mayor successfully plunges a bronze spigot
into the first available keg at 12 noon sharp, the call of "O'Zapft
Is!" (Hey, it's tapped already!") signals the first Maß is ready
to be served.
The tradition of horse racing competition continued for many years from
the time of Oktoberfest's inception, and along with it grew the custom
of including a farmer's market and agricultural exhibit. Carnival rides
and curious sideshows came later.
The Oktoberfest drew its first 100,000 in 1860, no small feat when you
consider that the entire city had only 121,234 population at the time.
Beer was there almost from the beginning. By 1890, a number of "beer
palaces" were in place and the city's breweries became more and more
instrumental in directing the course of the annual festival. By 1900 they
had divided the territory up by "tents" and introduced live
music and the distinctively Bavarian brass oom-pah bands.
Each year millions of people overwhelm Munich's permanent 1.3 million
population and make their way to Oktoberfest. At a recent Oktoberfest,
5.6 million visitors downed 5.7 million liters of beer, devoured 350,000
roast chickens, inhaled 176,590 pairs of grilled sausages, intercepted
91,730 pork knuckles, and dismembered 87 oxen roasted whole on a spit.
In addition to the beer, brass bands and the usual armies of buxom mug-toting
waitresses, the standard Oktoberfest includes 70 carnival rides, including
four roller coasters and dozens of others with the kids in mind.
Return to Fest Calendar