Let’s start with the history of Oktoberfest
Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on the 12th of October, 1810. 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 have been named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s fields”) in honor of the Crown Princess ever since, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the “Wies’n”.
Horse races in the presence of the Royal Family marked the close of the event that was celebrated as a festival for the whole of Bavaria. The decision to repeat the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the Oktoberfest.
In 1811 an added feature to the horse races was the first Agricultural Show, designed to boost Bavarian agriculture. The horse races, which were the oldest and— at one time— the most popular event of the festival are no longer held today. But the Agricultural Show is still held every three years during the Oktoberfest on the southern part of the festival grounds.
In the first few decades the choice of amusements was sparse. The first carousel and two swings were set up in 1818. Visitors were able to quench their thirst at small beer stands which grew rapidly in number. In 1896 the beer stands were replaced by the first beer tents and halls set up by enterprising landlords with the backing of the breweries.
The remainder of the festival site was taken up by a fun-fair. The range of carousels etc. on offer was already increasing rapidly in the 1870s as the fairground trade continued to grow and develop in Germany.
Today, the Oktoberfest is the largest festival in the world, with an international flavor characteristic of the 21st century: some 6 million visitors from all around the world converge on the Oktoberfest each year. 2016 marks the 183rd Oktoberfest.
What if you can’t make it to Munich this year?
Head to Cafe 20 in Marengo, Illinois. It is the most authentic Oktoberfest in northern Illinois. Bier, Brezen, Hendl, und Oompah— they’ve got it all— under a huge tent chock-full of Gemütlichkeit. The festivities run September 13 – September 18 in 2016, and mark their 10th anniversary. Prost!