The History of Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest – In September?

Oktoberfest traditionally starts in the third weekend in September and ends on the first Sunday of October. This years official Munich Oktoberfest runs from the 22rd September to 7th October, so what better day to celebrate in Melbourne than the opening day!

What is Oktoberfest?

It began with the Royal Wedding on 12 October 1810.

Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on 12 October 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy royal event. The fields were renamed Theresienwiese (“Theres’a Fields”) to honor the Crown Princess, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to “Wiesn”.

Horse Racing

Horse races in the presence of the royal family marked the close of the event that was celebrated as a festival for the whole of Bavaria. The decision to repeat the horse races in subsequent years gave rise to the tradition of Oktoberfest.

Funnily enough, the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne starts just about the same time…

The Oktoberfest continues in 1811

In 1811, an added feature to the horse races was the first Agricultural Show, designed to boost Bavarian agriculture. The horse races, which were the oldest – and at one time – the most popular event of the festival are no longer held today. But the Agricultural Show is still held every three years during the Oktoberfest on the southern part of the festival grounds.

More and more things to see and do

In the first few decades, the choices of amusements were sparse. In 1818, the first carousel and two swings were set up. Visitors were able to quench their thirst at small beer stands, which grew rapidly in number. In 1896 the beer stands were replaced by the first beer tents and halls set up by the enterprising landlords with the backing of the breweries. The remainder of the festival site was taken up by a fun-fair. The range of carousels offered was already increasing rapidly in the 1870’s as the fairground trade continued to grow and develop in Germany.

185th Oktoberfest in 2017 (22 September – 7 October 2017)

Today, the Oktoberfest in Munich is the largest festival in the world, with an international flavour characteristic of the 20th century.

At the foot of the Bavaria Statue, adjacent to the Huge Oktoberfest grounds there are also carousels, roller coasters and all the spectacular fun for the enjoyment and excitement of visitors of all ages.

The festivities are accompanied by a program of events, including the Grand Entry of the Oktoberfest Landlords and Breweries, the Costume and Riflemen’s Procession, and a concert involving all the brass bands represented at the “Wiesn”.

The Oktoberfest celebrated its 200th Anniversary in 2010, only Wars and cholera epidemics have briefly interrupted the yearly beer celebration.

The Royal Exhibition Building

The Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens were completed in 1880 for Melbourne’s first international exhibition. Today, the World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building stands as one of the world’s oldest exhibition pavilions, symbolising the great 19th-century international exhibition movement.

With its meticulously-restored opulent interior, expansive galleries and soaring dome, the Great Hall continues to offer a magnificent setting for trade shows, fairs and cultural and community events.

The Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens were inscribed on the World Heritage list on 1 July 2004, becoming the first building in Australia to achieve World Heritage listing.

The German Beer Garden

Under the floor of the Great Hall lies the basement, with its bluestone walls and long gloomy vistas. During the Centennial Exhibition, a cellar promoting German Beer did a roaring trade here. It was also used for exhibits of wine and dairy products.

The Western Forecourt of the Royal Exhibition Building was known as the German Circle during the 1880 Exhibition because it included a central kiosk representing Germany.

The Royal Melbourne Oktoberfest will be promoting this cultural exchange and celebrating the Australian-German history of the Royal Exhibition Building.