Kevin Sparks

History of Oktoberfest

Large crowds attend the horse races at the inaugural Oktoberfest in 1810.


Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12th, 1810 marked the beginning of the first Oktoberfest in history. All citizens of Munich were invited to celebrate the event on the fields of the city’s front gate. The fields were named “Thereisenweise” (Theresa’s Fields) in honor of Princess Therese but they are commonly referred to today as “Wiesn”. The festival was concluded with horse races for the Royal Family. The decision to hold the horse races again in 1811 began the tradition of Oktoberfest. The Agricultural Show was added the following year to boost Bavarian agriculture. It is on display every 4 years now, but the horse races ended in 1960. Carnival booths were introduced in 1816 where people could win jewelry and silver. Two years later in 1818, a carousel and swings were introduced. Beginning in 1835, a parade was conducted in Munich to honor the marriage. Roughly 8,000 Bavarians attend this march led by the Münchner Kindl.


The Bräurosl tent was opened in 1913, the largest tent ever capable of holding 12,000 people.

Beer stands that had previously been popular throughout the festival began to transform into tents and halls in 1896. Dancing and games such as skittles had previously been confined to the smaller booths. Today there are 14 main tents, each capable of holding 1,000 to 10,000 people. Family friendly rules have been set in place such as restricting the music to quieter levels.

Economic Impact

In 2009, Oktoberfest saw 5.7 million visitors, and that was considered a down year. 7.1 million attended in 1985, making Oktoberfest the largest Volksfest in the world. On average, 830 million Euro is spent every on food, drinks, and entertainment. 12,000 people are hired every year to run the festival.

Interesting Facts

2010 is the 200th anniversary of the first Oktoberfest, but it is only the 176th time it has been held. Events such as the cholera epidemic in 1854 and 1873, WWII, and hyperinflation in 1923 and 1924 have cancelled it in the past. Opening ceremonies in 1950 used to begin with the Lord Mayor striking a tap into the first keg and shouting, “O'zapft is!” There are nearly 1,000 tons of garbage that result from Oktoberfest every year. 521,872 chickens are devoured over the 16-day period. A mind-boggling 1,756,000 gallons of beer were consumed in 1999!


Thereisenweise-Theresa's Fields

Münchner Kindl-Munich child

Schlager-light pop music popular in Northern and Central Europe

Bayerisches Zentral-Landwirtschaftsfest-Bavarian Agricultural Show



ger/101/2010/fall/kevin_sparks.txt · Last modified: 2010/10/20 08:17 (external edit)
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