It’s that time of year when endless steins are filled with beer and people donning traditional Bavarian attire flock together. It’s Oktoberfest, but like last year and the years before, our calendars definitely still say it’s September.
The history of Oktoberfest goes back to Oct. 12, 1810, when Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig married Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The people of Munich were invited to partake in festivities on the fields where the couple was married – and where Oktoberfest is still held every year – to help celebrate the wedding.
The festivities lasted five days and ended in horse races, and it was decided that the events should take place every October as a festival for Bavaria. No one messed up the date, but at some point someone realized that it would probably be better to hold the event when it would be warmer. And so Oktoberfest was moved to the end of September and now it always begins the third weekend of September and ends the first weekend of October.
2016 marks the 183rd Oktoberfest celebration (some have been canceled due to weather) on the fields that came to be named Theresienwiese (Therese’s fields), or “Wies’n” to the locals.
While horse races were originally the big event of the celebration, those ceased after a while. But at least one pastime has remained through it all: drinking.
Those attending the festival could get a drink at small beer stands. These beer stands were constantly growing in number, and in 1896 the stands were replaced with the first beer tents. And today, the festival serves some 7 million liters of beer, and don’t forget all those brats and pretzels. You still have until Oct. 3 to get to Munich and take part in the world’s largest beer festival.
The largest Oktoberfest celebration in the US, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati (in Cincinnati), already took place Sept 16-18, but here’s a few celebrations you still have time to check out (if you’re not flying to Germany in the next week).
Reading Liederkranz Oktoberfest – Reading, PA
Sept. 28 – Oct. 2
USA Today Readers’ Choice ranked this Oktoberfest the best in the US — a celebration full of all your traditional Bavarian food and fanfare.
Oktoberfest, USA – La Crosse, WI
Sept. 29 – Oct. 2
The La Crosse festival celebrates its 56th year this year and you can get more than your fill of beer and brats, as well as a taste of Midwestern favorites at this celebration.
Denver Oktoberfest – Denver, CO
Sept. 30 – Oct. 2
This big gathering in Denver is full of fun and entertainment that include the Keg Bowling National Championships and the Stein Hoisting National Championship where contestants see who can hold two full 1.5 liter steins straight in front of them the longest.
Leavenworth Oktoberfest – Leavenworth, WA
Sept. 30 – Oct. 1, Oct. 7-8, Oct. 14-15
Just 2 hours east of Seattle and surrounded by the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, this small town is modeled after a Bavarian village and brings in bands from Germany for the annual celebrations of its Bavarian heritage.
Wurstfest – New Braunfels, TX
Obviously colder weather doesn’t pose the same problem as it does in the North, so you still have plenty of time to catch this 10-day Bavarian festival near San Antonio. This is a celebration of German culture with taste of Texas, and there’s a polka competition.