The history of the Oktoberfest
The Oktoberfest (also known as the Wiesn) is the largest festival in the world, attracting over 6 million visitors each year. A record ~7 million litres of beer were served in 2010 at the 200th Oktoberfest celebration. It all began as a horse race in October of 1810 for the royal wedding of Bavaria’s crown prince Ludwig to princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The idea came from the non-commissioned officer of the national guard, Franz Baumgartner, who recalled the almost forgotten scarlet races popularised during the Middle Ages, where the winner waved a valuable scarlet scarf. King Max I. Joseph was thrilled at the idea and eventually arranged for the horse races to be held on the meadow in front of the city’s gates. It is clear why the field subsequently became known as Theresienwiese (Theresa’s field). It was great fun! And so the horse race was repeated.
Where there’s a celebration, there must be beer...
so, in 1818 the first innkeepers and fairground attractions began to emerge around the royal tent. From these, larger tents and the first rotisserie chicken booth ensued. Little by little, the festival grew to what it has become today, with new traditions developing along the way. The first mayor to tap the first barrel for the opening of Oktoberfest was Thomas Wimmer in 1950. Since then, it has become a ritual that no city leader is willing to relinquish. Munich’s love for the Wiesn remains unbroken and the city rejoices each year when the incumbent mayor calls out, “O’zapft is” at the opening of the Oktoberfest.
Every year, the official prelude to Oktoberfest is the grand entry of the tent operators’ families and the Munich breweries. The tent operators, along with their families and guests, cheer to the spectators from their beautifully decorated horse carriages. Magnificent horse drawn drays from the breweries, marching bands and the traditional costume and riflemen’s procession, form the imposing triumphal procession, led by the Münchner Kindl (Munich child) and the mayor of Munich. First held in 1835 to commemorate the silver anniversary of Ludwig I and Therese of Bavaria, the costume and rifleman procession has become the most important event at the Wiesn since 1950.