By Maike Daumann, German air force
/ Published August 28, 2006
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
This year the German air force Flying Training Center will hold its 10th annual Oktoberfest. This big event will take place Sept. 23, from 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. in and around maintenance hangar building 286. One week after ours, the Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany starts. But since when do the Germans celebrate their Oktoberfest?
Here are a few facts about the history of the "Oktoberfest."
It all began with the Royal Wedding on Oct. 12, 1810. Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy, royal event.
The fields were renamed "Theresienwiese" ("Theresa's Fields") to honor the Crown Princess. The locals have since abbreviated the name simply to "Wies'n." Horse races in the presence of the royal family marked the close of the event that was celebrated as a festival for all of Bavaria. The decision to repeat the horse races in subsequent years gave rise to the tradition of Oktoberfest.
In 1811, an agricultural festival was added to the horse race. Its main attraction was a competition in which the most splendid horses and oxen were awarded prizes.
The horse race ceased to be held after 1938, but the agricultural festival has been a part of the Oktoberfest up to this day. It takes part every four years on the southern part of the "Theresienwiese." In these years, as there is less space for the Oktoberfest, it's called a "small" Oktoberfest.
The people from Munich wanted to have a little fun, too. In 1818, the first carrousel and two big swings were set up. In addition, there were beer counters. But the people wanted more. In 1896 the first of the huge beer tents were started as a joint venture of their proprietors and different breweries.
Until today, only breweries from Munich were allowed to sell beer on the Oktoberfest. There were also more carrousels and swings and soon people could buy food, too. In 1870, the Oktoberfest could not take place due to the French-German War 1873 was not a year to celebrate, either -- the cholera had broken out in Munich.
But in the years to come, the attractions of the Oktoberfest kept getting more and more exotic: in 1879, the organizers of the fair presented an African tribe in 1880, (the first year that electric light was used at the Oktoberfest) you could marvel at a group of wax figures. In 1881, the biggest chicken rotisserie in the world opened on the fair grounds. Finally, in 1892 visitors could drink their beer out of the famous 1-liter glass mugs.
As a result of World Wars I and II, Oktoberfest activities could not take place. Finally, in 1950, Mayor Thomas Wimmer established a new "Wies'n" tradition: high noon on the first day of the Oktoberfest the respective mayor taps the first beer barrel in the "Schottenhamel" tent shouting "Ozapft is!" ("the barrel has been tapped!").
In 1980, a tragedy took place - there was a bomb attack at the main entrance, 13 visitors died and 200 were injured.
In 1984, the beer was tapped from metal containers for the first time -- but since the containers are made to look like wooden barrels, at least their appearance hasn't changed. In 1999, the 166th Oktoberfest took place: 6.5 million visitors drank 5.8 million "Mass" (liters) of beer and devoured 84 oxen, 320,000 sausages and 589,000 roast chicken.
The Oktoberfest is the biggest fair of the world and it's known worldwide. What's special and attractive about the Oktoberfest is its ability to combine a celebration for the locals and an international mega-event, a combination of traditions and high-tech, new ideas and influences. And why does Oktoberfest start in September? Well, it does finish in October, but due to the cool weather in Germany, the organizers decided it would be better to start it on the third weekend in September.