It is time for Oktoberfest!!! And the best one is the Saint Charles Oktoberfest on the riverfront this coming weekend! While there don’t miss the German Cultural Tent where you will find exhibits, displays and other information from German-American organizations around the St. Louis region. Stop by on Saturday afternoon at 1pm to get your copy of Jim Merkel’s latest edition of Beer, Brats and Baseball or on Sunday afternoon at 1pm for a copy of Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America!
What is Oktoberfest and why do we celebrate it in September? The Oktoberfest tradition began in Munich in 1810 to celebrate the October 12th marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese. The citizens were invited to join in the wedding festivities which ended up lasting over five days on the fields in front of the city gates. The story goes that when the couple returned from their honeymoon, the villagers were still partying.
Anniversary celebrations began annually after that and eventually became larger and more elaborate. An agricultural show was added during the second year. In 1818, a carousel and two swings were set up for the revelers. Such amusements were few in the first decades of the festival, but party-goers were amply entertained by the tree climbing competitions, wheel barrow and sack races, mush eating contests, barrel rolling races, and goose chases. By 1870s, mechanical rides were an expanding feature of the festival and in 1908, the festival boasted Germany’s first roller coaster. When the city began allowing beer on the fairgrounds, makeshift beer stands began cropping up, and their number increased steadily until they were eventually replaced by beer halls in 1896. The beer halls, like the beer tents of today, were sponsored by the local breweries.