In honour of the Oktoberfest?s anniversary year visitors to the Bavarian capital can expect an additional programme of culture, entertainment and traditional customs alongside the white-knuckle rides and heaving beer tents.
Visitors to the 2010 Oktoberfest have many ways to immerse themselves in traditional Bavarian culture. Perhaps the best opportunity is the grand parade of showmen, breweries and festival publicans on 18 September 2010.
The procession, which lasts around 45 minutes, begins at 10.45am and culminates in the opening ceremony for the Oktoberfest. It features the families of the festival publicans, horse-drawn carts representing the Munich breweries, waitresses waving from extravagant floats and all the brass bands that play in the beer tents.
The parade of traditional costumes held the following day is also well worth a look: on 19 September 2010 from 10am to 12 noon, around 8000 people will make their way through the main streets and squares of Munich city centre before arriving at the festival site.
This famous parade reflects the incredible diversity of customs and traditions that thrive in central Bavaria, Franconia, Swabia, other German regions and neighbouring European countries. The seven kilometer parade features traditional dance troupes, groups in historical uniform, brass bands, marching bands, marksmen?s clubs, livestock processions, horse-drawn brewery wagons, historical carriages and floats displaying regional customs.
Folk dances ? some around colourful Banderbaum poles ? harvest crowns and old craftsmen's tools are other highlights of this traditional parade on the first Oktoberfest Sunday.
A standing brass band concert is held on the second Oktoberfest Sunday. From 11am, some 400 musicians representing all the beer tent bands take part in this colourful open-air event around the Bavaria statue. The anniversary year is also a chance to remember the origins of the Oktoberfest: the story of the festival from past to present will be brought to life at the 'historical Oktoberfest' in the southern part of the Theresienwiese site.
A horse race will also be held in the southern part of the festival site in 2010. Organised by Festring Munchen e.V., it commemorates the race which was staged in honour of the royal wedding of 1810 ? the very first Oktoberfest.
It started with a wedding
Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, who would later become King Ludwig I, married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on 12 October 1810. The festivities, which the people of Munich were invited to attend, took place on a meadow which was outside the city boundary.
Ever since that historic day the site has been called Theresienwiese in honour of the bride. The wedding festivities included a horse race on 17 October 1810, which was held as a festival for all of Bavaria in the presence of the royal family. The decision to repeat the race the following year heralded the beginning of the Oktoberfest tradition.
Just one year later the race was joined by the inaugural agricultural festival, which began as a trade fair for Bavarian farmers: the Zentrallandwirtschaftsfest still takes place every four years during the Oktoberfest on the southern part of the Theresienwiese.
The small stands that sold beer at the Oktoberfest grew rapidly in number and the first big beer tents were set up in 1896. An initially modest assortment of amusements and sideshows occupied the remainder of the festival site: the first carousel and two swing rides arrived in 1818. The fun fair element of the Oktoberfest got bigger and bigger from the 1870s as the fairground industry took off in Germany.
War gets in the way
Although the Oktoberfest is 200 years old this year, it has actually only been held 177 times. The explanation for this is simple: because of the cholera epidemics of 1854 and 1873 and because of the First and Second World Wars.
To this day, the Oktoberfest is still held on the Theresienwiese. The name has been shortened to Wiesn over the years and become a byword for the Oktoberfest all over Germany. In the 21st century few other events can boast such widespread international appeal as the world?s biggest beer festival: every year it attracts more than six million visitors from all corners of the globe.
What?s more, Munich?s Oktoberfest has spawned many imitations around the world: the cry of o' zapft is! as the first beer barrel is tapped can be heard in places as far away as Australia, Brazil, China, Jamaica, Thailand and the USA. And, of course, South Africa.
For more on this year's Oktoberfest, click through to http://www.oktoberfest.de.