History

How Oktoberfest Became the World’s Preeminent Beer Festival

At precisely noon on September 19, following a parade through the city, the mayor of Munich, Germany, will tap the first keg of Oktoberfest with a cry of “O’zapft is (It’s tapped)!” From that moment until a traditional gun salute brings the 16-day festival to a close, more than 6 million visitors are expected to consume enough beer to fill three Olympic-size swimming pools. In between gulps, there will also be traditional Bavarian food and amusement park rides on offer, including what organizers are billing as the world’s largest haunted house.

Many revelers at this year’s festivities may not even know that they’re in essence commemorating a wedding. Back in October 1810, Bavaria’s crown prince (the future King Ludwig I) married Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. Bavaria, in present-day southern Germany, had become a kingdom just four years earlier. So to build up national unity, the royal family invited all of Munich, the capital of Bavaria, to celebrate on the fields just outside the city gates. Over the course of six days, these fields, now known as Theresienwiese (Therese’s meadow), or Wies’n for short, hosted a fair, a parade and, most notably, a horse race attended by some 10,000 spectators. Read the full story here.