Taylor Gersch, Staff Writer
What exactly is Oktoberfest? Traditionally starting in the third weekend of September and ending the first Sunday of October, it is a grand Bavarian event attracting crowds of people. Prince Ludwig, who was to become King Ludwig, was set to marry Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on Oct. 12, 1810 in Munich, Germany. The citizens of Munich were invited to celebrate their engagement at the fields of their city gate known today as “Wiesn.”
Horse races were originally held to mark the close of the festival that was later expanded to include people of Bavaria as a whole. This tradition of horse racing is what led to the tradition of Oktoberfest. In 1811, an addition to horse races were added-the first agricultural show, intended to boost Bavarian agriculture. Today, the same agriculture show is held every three years at the festival in Bavaria. In 1818, the first carousel and swings were set up along with small stands for festival goers to purchase a stein of beer. In 1896, these small stands of beer were replaced with beer halls and tends and the fest of the grounds were taken up by the fun-fair.
Today the Octoberfest in Munich is the largest festival in the world, attracting six million visiters from all over the world. This year, Oktoberfest in Bavaria celebrated their 184th festival while Leavenworth celebrated their 19th and Mt. Angel celebrated their 51st Oktoberfest.
These local Oktoberfests has been a huge hit for Pacific Northwest festival enthusiasts.
Mt. Angel’s Oktoberfest draws in more than 300,000 visitors a year, raising tens of thousands of dollars for local causes including their library, fire department, nursing homes and schools. Since its inception, Mt. Angel’s Oktoberfest has distributed nearly 3,000,000 dollars to non-profits. Junior sociology major Lauren Maley attended her first Oktoberfest with friend Taylor Wolf this year since Wolf’s family helps at one of the many booths at the festival.
“There were so many people! It was a really fun environment because there was always music playing, everyone you talked to was super nice and inviting, and people got really into the event. Everyone was walking around in their flower crowns and outfits, so of course we had to get our own flower crowns too. People from all over the world come to this one event, so it was interesting to see people from all different backgrounds and cultures come together to celebrate, eat and drink. The food was absolutely amazing, and most of the proceeds went to local non-profits,” said Maley.
Maley would recommend that others attend the event next year, “It was super fun and I do plan on going back next year!”
Senior biology major Taylor Wolf, who attended Mt. Angel’s Oktoberfest with Maley has been attending the event as long as she could remember. She grew up ten minutes from Mt. Angel and her family volunteers their time to work at the Sacred Heart Knights of Columbus booth at the event.
“The event is very crowded. People travel from far and wide to attend the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest. The atmosphere is very authentic. Mt. Angel is a Bavarian town so the German event is only fitting to be held here. There are people laughing and talking, there is music and dancing, and overall exciting and fun event. It is for all ages so there is children and adults alike enjoying the festivities,” said Wolf. While neither Maley nor Wolf wore lederhosen for the event, they did purchase and wear flower crowns and would encourage people who want an authentic experience to invest in lederhosen or a dirndl, a traditional German dress.
Starting the celebrations in 2003, Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest has continued to grow to 10,000 attendees, with bands traveling all the way from Germany to attend. Leavenworth’s festival was ranked among the top Oktoberfest celebrations in the country.
Masters in counseling graduate student Kelli Bannerman also attended her first Oktoberfest this year at Leavenworth. “It was loud, a lot of people, food and dancing! The food was so good, it was mostly all authentic German cuisine, and there were homemade donuts and elephant ears! There was a variation of beers just for the event and we had refillable mugs,” said Bannerman.
Bannerman intends on attending the event again next year during the second weekend, since there tends to be more interactive activities and games at that time. Without a doubt, Oktoberfest offers a cultural and fun experience for those who enjoy fall and Bavarian tradition.