A History of Oktoberfest
Fun Oktoberfest History Facts
The History of October-fest aka Oktoberfest began with, Kronprinz Ludwig (1786–1868), later King Ludwig I (reign: 1825–1848), married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on 12 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 royal event.
The fields were named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s Meadow”) in honor of the Crown Princess, and have kept that name ever since, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the “Wiesn”. Horse races, in the tradition of the 15th-century Scharlachrennen (Scarlet Race at Karlstor), were held on 18 October to honor the newlyweds. It is widely understood that Andreas Michael Dall’Armi, a Major in the National Guard, proposed the idea. However, the origins of the horse races, and Oktoberfest itself, may have stemmed from proposals offered by Franz Baumgartner, a coachman and Sergeant in the National Guard. The precise origins of the festival and horse races remain a matter of controversy, however, the decision to repeat the horse races, spectacle, and celebrations in 1811 launched what is now the annual Oktoberfest tradition.
The fairground, once outside the city, was chosen due to its natural suitability. The Sendlinger Hill (today Theresienhohe) was used as a grandstand for 40,000 race spectators. The festival grounds remained undeveloped except for the king’s tent. The tastings of “Traiteurs” and other wine and beer took place above the visitors in the stands on the hill. Before the race started, a performance was held in homage of the bridegroom and of the royal family in the form of a train of 16 pairs of children dressed in Wittelsbach costumes, and costumes from the then nine Bavarian townships and other regions. This was followed by the punishing race with 30 horses on a 11,200-foot (3,400 meters) long racetrack, and concluded with the singing of a student choir. The first horse to cross the finish line belonged to Franz Baumgartner (one of the purported festival initiators). Horse racing champion and Minister of State, Maximilian Graf von Montgelas, presented Baumgartner with his gold medal.
To keep the Oktoberfest, and especially the beer tents, amicable for the elderly and families, the concept of the “quiet Oktoberfest” was developed in 2005. Until 6:00 pm, the orchestras in the tents only play quiet brass music, for example traditional folk music. Only after that may Schlager pop or electric music be played, which had led to excess violence in earlier years. The music played in the afternoon is limited to 85 Decibels. With these rules, the organizers of the Oktoberfest were able to curb the tumultuous party mentality and preserve the traditional beer-tent atmosphere.
In 2005 the last travelling enterprise amusement ride of Germany, called the Mondlift, returned to the Oktoberfest.
Starting in 2008, a new Bavarian law was passed to ban smoking in all enclosed spaces open to the public. Because of problems enforcing the anti-smoking law in the big tents, an exception was granted to the Oktoberfest in 2008, although the sale of tobacco was not allowed. After heavy losses in the 2008 local elections, with the smoking ban being a big issue in political debates, the state’s ruling party implemented general exemptions to beer tents and small pubs.
The change in regulations was aimed in particular to benefit the large tents of the Oktoberfest. So, smoking in the tents is still legal, but the tents usually have non-smoking areas. The sale of tobacco in the tents is now legal, but is widely boycotted by mutual agreement.
However, in early 2010, a referendum held in Bavaria as a result of a popular initiative re-instituted the original, strict, smoking ban of 2008; thus, no beer will be sold to people caught smoking in the tents.
The blanket smoking ban did not take effect until 2011, but all tents instituted the smoking ban in 2010 to do a “dry run” to identify any unforeseeable issues
The year 2010 marked the 200th anniversary of the Oktoberfest. For the anniversary, a horse race in historical costumes was held on opening day. A historical Oktoberfest took place, starting one day earlier than usual on the southern part of the festival grounds. A specially brewed beer (solely available at the tents of the historical Oktoberfest), horse races, and a museum tent gave visitors an impression of how the event felt two centuries ago.
In Germany, this year’s Oktoberfest started on September 16th and ended on October 3rd! Wow, who knew that Oktoberfest started in September? I sure didn’t! I wonder if any of our fellow Military Families in Germany were aware of this. I grew up in Germany as a Military Child while my dad was stationed there until I was four years old, and the history of Oktoberfest was something new for me!