The Colorful History of Oktoberfest


Oktoberfest is without a doubt the world’s largest and most popular folk festival. It attracts over a million visitors a year and the number keeps on growing. However, only a few truly know how it all began. Well, now is the time to change and know practically everything you need to know about its history. Knowing how it began will make it all the more fun and enjoyable the next time you experience it because everything would totally make more sense! So go ahead, read on, and have fun!

Oktoberfest’s Horse Racing Past

For a folk festival of grand size, Oktoberfest offers quite a cozy and warm setting with its tents, pretzels, and beers for days. This is because everything actually originated from a wedding.

A civil officer named Andreas Michael Dall’Armi came up with an idea that they should celebrate the wedding of Prince Regent Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen with a twist. And the twist they came up with is having a huge horse race in honor of the wedding.

King Max I Joseph of Bavaria was impressed with the idea and gave it his 100% approval. The royal couple got married on 12 October 1810 and the festivities took place five days after. Back then, there were no beer tents yet but it’s where all the magic began. Everyone enjoyed the yearly festivities so much that in 1825, the city of Munich awarded Andreas Michael Dall’Armi with its first gold citizen’s medal to honor his “invention” of the Oktoberfest. To honor him, a street in Neuhausen-Nymphenburg was also named after him.

1819: When Oktoberfest Became the Star

A year after the wedding, everyone agreed that they wanted more of the festivity. As there was no more royal wedding to set-up and organize, a new organizer was needed. It was then that the organization was passed to the Bavarian agricultural association. The association used the opportunity to highlight their products. However, things were put to a halt due to Napoleonic wars.

When the war ended, people privately funded Oktoberfest. But in 1819, after realizing that Oktoberfest will be successful in drawing in crowds and bringing in revenue, Munichs’ forefathers decided to prioritize it. It was then that it was finalized that it is to be celebrated annually and is to receive much preparation, attention, and funding.

Oktoberfest’s Challenging Times

1850 proved to be a victorious year is it was when the statue of Bavaria was unveiled. Bavaria is known as the guardian of Oktoberfest and it is also the symbol of the state of Bavaria.

However, challenging times arrived. War and cholera enveloped the times and it took quite a while before Oktoberfest transformed into the merrymaking festivity that it is now. It took decades before the festivity became big.

In 1881, the first outlet that offered roasted chicken opened in Oktoberfest. By the close of the 19th century, Oktoberfest became bigger and bigger with carousels and booths that came with performers and musicians that were all supported by electric lighting! This is when the demand ever got higher and massive! Demand was too high that breweries had to set up big tents instead of small stalls. This is the time when the beer tent culture began.

1980: When Oktoberfest Was Attacked

1980 was a dark year for Oktoberfest. On September 26 of that year, a bomb killed 13 people when it set off at the main entrance to Oktoberfest. 200 people were also injured. Even the assailant, Gundolf Köhler, was also injured. The attack is considered as one of the darkest times in Germany’s history. In 2014, the case was reopened and investigations were set anew.

How Oktoberfest is Celebrated Today

Oktoberfest has come a long way. Reading the Thirsty Swagman Oktoberfest article will give you quite an idea as to how big and massive it has become.

The two are a few of its remarkable and notable celebrations:

  • 1910 – Oktoberfest celebrated its 100th anniversary by the pouring of 12,000 hectoliters of beer at Pschorr-Bräurosl. A huge festival tent was made available that could seat a total of 12,000 people.
  • 1950 – Mayor Thomas Wimmer of Munich tapped a keg in a tent for the first time. It was in the Schottehamel tent. Since then, it has been a tradition for the mayor to start off Oktoberfest. Today, the words ‘O’zapft is’ has quite the cult status!

Oktoberfest is now the world’s most popular and largest folk festival that draws over six million visitors each year. It continues to break records every single year when it comes to the amount of beer and chicken consumed.

To make it more attractive to families with kids, a quite Oktoberfest festival was introduced in 2005. This version of the festival can only play party music after 6 pm.

When Oktoberfest marked its 200th anniversary in 2010, a historical festival was set-up in Theresienwiese to remind everyone of its beginnings. Horse-racing was made available together with cultural activities and family-friendly programs. The event was referred to as the Oide Wiesn and people loved it. So much so that it has taken place every year since then. However, it does not take place if the Bavarian Agricultural Fair, a fair that is mounted every four years,  is on. The next time that there will be no Oide Wiesn will be in 2024.


Now that you know much of its history, you’d very well be able to shine ever brightly in the tent! Cheers!