Although Oktoberfest, the world's largest and best known beer festival, is canceled due to COVID-19, we thought it would be a great time to brush up on the history of the festival and how it has evolved in modern times.
The first version of Oktoberfest did not at all resemble the modern festival we know and love today. It all started in 1809 when Michael Dall'Armi, a member of the Bavarian National Guard, wanted to celebrate the wedding of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria a little bit differently. He thought that the best way to honor the marriage of the Prince Regent and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen would be with a horse race and other celebrations. Needless to say the event was a huge success, and eventually people wanted more!
Without another royal wedding to plan but a tremendous amount of public enthusiasm, the event needed organization and new financial backing. The Bavarian Agricultural Association stepped in, and used the fledgling event as an opportunity to showcase their goods and services. The 1810 event proved successful as well, but by 1813, the Napoleonic wars had put a stop to the festivities. In1819 after the war was over, city leadership decided to make the festival a public and annual event. Large crowds and therefore large revenues were all but guaranteed, which made it an incredible opportunity for the local economy and businesses.
It took nearly a century from the wedding of the Prince Regent for the festival to become the event we know and love today. In 1910 to mark the 100th anniversary, nearly 32,000 gallons of beer were poured for over 12,000 people. Eventually, rides became an integral part of the festivities and continued to center it as a community event. In 1950, Munich Mayor Thomas Wimmer tapped the first keg of the festival, and now it is custom for the mayor to kick off the event.
Today, the Oktoberfest is the world’s largest folk festival and it draws around six million visitors annually. Each year, it continues to break new records from the quantity of beer consumed through to the amount of chicken devoured. Although the COVID-19 crisis has canceled the festival for the year, the spirit of the event will live on through beer enthusiasts everywhere.