The World’s Largest Festival
The Oktoberfest – also known as the Wiesn – is the largest festival in the world, attracting over 6 million visitors a year. A record approximately 7 million liters (about 1.85 million gallons) of beer were served in 2010 at the 200th Oktoberfest celebration.
In October 1810, Franz Baumgartner, an officer of the National Guard, proposed a horse race to honor the wedding of Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The idea was inspired by the Scarlet Races, held during the Middle Ages with the winner taking home a valuable scarlet scarf. King Max I. Joseph loved the idea and arranged for the races to be held on the meadow in front of the city’s gates. It was such a success that the races were repeated and the field became known as Theresienwiese (Theresa’s field), where the Oktoberfest takes place.
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. Next, larger tents and the first rotisserie chicken booth arrived. 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, this has become a ritual that no city leader is willing to relinquish. Munich’s love for the Wiesn endures 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.