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It’s not just about the beer

October 1, 2010
By MIKE HUGHES, The Ticket

And with a loud cry of O' zapft is!, the annual party that is Oktoberfest begins.

Meaning "It's tapped" in German, the phrase is uttered after the first official keg of Oktoberfest beer is tapped in Munich, Germany every year, signaling the start of the annual tradition, now in its 177th edition.

And while it's now mostly about the beer, the liquid gold had little to do with the original cause for celebration during the first "Oktoberfest" in 1810.

The first festival took place Oct. 12, 1810, five days after the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.

A great horse race was organized to celebrate the nuptials. It went over so well that the horse race was renewed for the following October.

In 1811, an agricultural show was added to the events in order to celebrate and boost Bavarian agriculture.

That agriculture event is still celebrated today, being held every three years while the tradition of hosting a horse race ran until 1960.

A parade was first held to honor the marriage of King Ludwig and Therese of Bavaria in 1835. The parade didn't become a yearly event until 15 years later in 1850.

The first of what could be deemed carnival rides were added in 1818, when a carousel and a few swings were set up for entertainment.

And yes, eventually the drinking of beer became the focal point of the festival.

During the 100th anniversary Oktoberfest in 1910, 120,00 liters of beer were poured for festival goers.

In what originally began with small beer stands grew into giant tents and halls

In 1913, the largest beer tent, the Braurosi, was erected, housing enough room for 12,000 thirsty guests.

Current estimates have roughly 6.6 million liters of beer consumed each year at Oktoberfest, the largest public celebration in the world.

During World War II, no Oktoberfest celebration was held in Munich from 1939 to 1945. In fact, Oktoberfest has been cancelled 24 times because of varying reasons ranging from war and disease to other causes since its inception.

The tradition of tapping the first Oktoberfest keg began in 1950, with the current Mayor of Munich handling the duties.

The modern inclination of Oktoberfest ranges from 16-18 days, depending on the year.

There are still carousels to be ridden but now there are also roller coasts and other thrill rides for visitors of all ages to enjoy.

Millions of visitors make their way to Munich every year to partake in the festivities, celebrating and experiencing German culture, its food, its drink and its song.

The popularity of Oktoberfest has sparked similar festivals throughout the world, some small and some even large enough to rival the original celebration in Munich.

Dubbed America's Oktoberfest in "Zinzinnati, Ohio," the Queen City's version attracts more than 500,000 visitors annually.

In 1994, the Crown Prince of Bavaria attended the Cincinnati event and helped set a world record for the world's largest outdoor chicken dane with 48,000 people participating.



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