Oktoberfest is the biggest beer festival of the world and is held every year in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. The festival is carried out for 16 days and around 6 million people actively participate in this festival. Around 1.5 millions gallons of beer, 480,000 spit roasted chickens and 200,000 pork sausages pair is consumed during this festival. Tourists from all over the globe visit the place to take part in this festival. You can see Germans representing the traditional beer loving and meat loving image and are dressed in dirndls and lederhosen to match the spirit of the occasion. This festival brings lot of revenue and around 450 million euros are brought to the coffer of the city during this period. Nowadays, similar Oktoberfest festivals are celebrated in other parts of the world on the model of the original folk festival. The largest festival outside Germany is held in Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada. This is so because ethnic Germans in large population reside here. Another such even is also held in Zinzinnati in Ohio which is visited by around half million visitors.
The Oktoberfest tradition was started to celebrate the 12th October marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig with Saxon- Hildburghausen Princess Therese in 1810. At that time all the citizens of Munich were invited and the festival continued for five days. The major highlight of the event was horse race. Since then anniversary celebrations have been going on every year and year by year the event became much larger and bigger. Earlier the amusements were very less but competitions like tree climbing, wheel arrow and sack races, barrel rolling races, mush eating contests and goose chases were major attractions. During 1870s mechanical rides became additional attractions and by 1908, roller coaster became the interesting feature of the festival. So as to hold the festival in better weather conditions, the festival was then shifted ahead of September. As of today, the first Sunday of October is the last day of the festival. In last 200 years the Oktoberfest has been cancelled on 24 occasions due to war and cholera epidemics.
The Oktoberfest has undergone lot of changes ever since it was first organized. For the first time in 1960 horse races were held and are continued even today. Agricultural show is held in every four years. One thing is still the same and that is the venue of the event. It is takes place on the meadow of Theresa or Theresienwiese as it is fondly called and was named after the new bride. Around two weeks before the first Sunday of October the fair grounds get a new look of a city with beer tents, rides, performers, amusements, and other booths of vendors and traditional confections. The festival is inaugurated by the Mayor of Munich around noon and he speaks aloud O’zapft is! ("It's tapped!") to declare it open. The opening Sunday is marked by Costume and Riflemen’s procession in which around 7000 performers participate dressed in traditional and historical costumes and uniforms. They march with the bands, riflemen, bred horses and other livestock and also along with the old fashioned carriages and innumerable floats. The second Sunday of the festival starts with an open air band concert in which around 400 musicians take part. The whole festival encompasses an area of 103 acre and the visitors have gala time riding Ferris wheel, roller coaster, navigation through labyrinth, water slide, visiting haunted house, entertainment from various performers, flea circus magic , numerous game booths and many other things.
Oktoberfest beer is of special variety called Märzen and it contains only 6% alcohol. This beer is brewed like all the other German beers according to Reinheitsgebot rules which underline the precise use of four main beer components: Barley, malt, yeast and hops. Only 6 Munich breweries - Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten – have the permission to serve beer during the festival. The food at this fest is consumed in huge quantities. But some special delicacies include Hendl, and whole grilled chicken halves on spit. Other variations include spit roasted goose or duct. Traditional apple dish and red cabbage are specially served with roasted meats and potato dumplings. Some local specialities include grilled pork knuckles, roasted ox tails, or more special Bavarian Weißwürste. Seafood lovers can also try charcoal fired fish on a stick ( Steckerlfisch). Some special sweets and dessert dishes include Dampfnudel (steamed honey dumplings with vanilla sauces and Kaiserschmarrn (sugar raisin pancakes).
Traditional music and folk music enliven the atmosphere of the Oktoberfest and the popular polkas and oompah music are the major highlights of the scintillating festive nights.
The Oktober festival as the name indicates is held in the month of October. It will start on September 17th and last until October 3rd in the year 2011. These dates vary slightly every year and so doesn't have a set start date, so always check the exact date for the specific year if you are planning to go to the Oktoberfest. The booths are open and entry itself is free. The beer at the Oktober fest is served from 10:00am to 1o: 30 pm.