Over the course of the multi-day festival in Munich—which takes place in 2016 from September 16 to October 3—some 1.85 million gallons of beer and hundreds of thousands of pork sausages and spit-roasted chickens are consumed by over six million visitors from around the world. How and why did this popular tradition begin?
The origin of Oktoberfest can be traced back to October 12, 1810, the wedding day of Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Against tradition, the couple invited Munich’s common people to the festivities. The events were held over five days on the fields in front of the city gates—now called Theresienwiese (Theresa’s Meadow) after the bride. Forty thousand people showed up. A year later, they decided to throw the party all over again as an anniversary tribute to the royal couple.
The big event at the first festival was a horse race and then an agricultural show. By 1818, events included a carousel and swings, tree-climbing competitions, wheelbarrow and sack races, barrel rolling races and goose chases. Mechanical rides were added in the 1870s. And in 1908, the Oktoberfest boasted Germany’s first roller coaster.
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