by Lucy Saunders
Get out the lederhosen and steins—it is the season for Oktoberfest. Before you tap the keg and turn up the oom-pah, here's a bit of history about the event and the beer style both named Oktoberfest.
The first Oktoberfest was not really a festival at all, but the public celebration of the wedding of Crown Prince Luitpold I and Princess Theressa of Bavaria on October 17, 1810. Held on a large meadow in Munich, the party featured a horse race, beer, food, music and dancing.
Anniversary celebrations continued each year, usually starting in late September and ending in the first week of October. Oktoberfests have been held in Munich for almost 200 years (with the exception of wartime). As immigrants from Germany came to North America, smaller Oktoberfests sprouted up in their communities.
Now, it's Munich vs. Cincinnati, vying for the title of the world's largest Oktoberfest. In Munich, close to a million people show up to consume 10 million pints of beer, some 750, 000 spit-roasted chickens, and more than 800, 000 wursts and sausages. (Sadly, traditional oom-pah bands are slowly being replaced by taped music—one disgruntled festgoer complained about hearing "La Macarena" more than 200 times during last year's fest in Munich).
In Cincinnati, close to 700, 000 people jam the streets of "Zinzinnati" during late September, jostling to music from seven large entertainment stages, while dozens of food vendors serve bratwurst, sauerkraut and thousands of gallons of beer.
These giant fests set the stage for similar Oktoberfests across North America: Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario, Canada; Helen, Georgia; Grand Prairie, Texas; Amana, Iowa; Poughkeepsie, New York; Denver, Colorado; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and even the 150th Napa Oktoberfest in the heart of California's wine country. This year, the Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort in Solvang, California, introduces its Oktoberfest Weekend with the Danskjold and Firestone Breweries on Oct. 31, extending the season of Festbier well into autumn!