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The history of Oktoberfest

How Munich's Oktoberfest became the largest festival in the world.

The Oktoberfest: How it all began

It was a civil officer who set the ball rolling in 1810. October festivals were once common in Bavaria – at least, all the stored so-called Märzenbier ( dark lager beer) had to be drunk before the new brewing season began. However, the reason for the celebration, which is today known as the Oktoberfest, was the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese. In order to celebrate this big event, a banker, Andreas Michael Dall'Armi, held a big horse race on a lawn in front of Munich's city walls on 17 October . This was the predecessor of the Oktoberfest. In honor of the bride, the meadow got the name Theresienwiese (Theresa's meadow), although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the "Wies'n". And because of the great popularity the horse race enjoyed, the Bavarian royal court decided to repeat the solemn event in the coming year. Unbelievable but true: In those times, there was definitely a lot to drink, but beer wasn't on the menu.


From horse racing to Munich Oktoberfest

From then on, Oktoberfest took place as a privately funded event every year. In addition to the horse race course, there were jungle gyms, bowling alleys and swings. In 1818, the very first carousel was installed at the fairgrounds. A year later, Munich's city fathers made a decision: Oktoberfest should continue to take place annually. This was unfortunately not achieved at all times. Since its beginning in 1810, Oktoberfest wasn't held 24 times in total - due to, among others, cholera epidemics, the Austro-Prussian and Franco-German war. And of course for apparent reasons, during the First and Second World War. Towards the end of the 19th century, Oktoberfest has developed more and more as the festival that is known today throughout the world. And finally, the city council allowed the sale of beer.


First keg tapping at Schottenhamel

A few decades passed until the mayor of Munich opened the first keg tapping ceremony: it was in 1950, when Thomas Wimmer opened the festival in a beer tent named „Schottenhamel“. Over the following decades, Oktoberfest became the largest beer festival in the world. But there is also a dark point in the history of the festival: on 26 of September in 1980, a bomb exploded at the fairgrounds - 13 people died, including the bomber himself, and more than 200 visitors were injured. The Oktoberfest assassination remains as one of the worst assaults in German history.


Oktoberfest records

In a 200-year history there is always room for all sorts of amazing records. The highest number of Oktoberfest visitors was registered in 1985. A total of 7.1 million people celebrated the 175th jubilee of Oktoberfest. In 2011, 6.9 million people came to Theresienwiese and drank a total of 7.5 million liters of beer, setting a new record. The largest Oktoberfest beer tent of all time dates back to 1913 and was the „Pschorr-Bräu Rosl“ tent. Approximately 12,000 guests gathered to place. Today, „Hofbräuhaus Festival Hall“ is the biggest tent with around 10,000 seats.