I open my column today with a quote from History.com. “Bavarian Crown Prince Louis, later King Louis I of Bavaria, marries Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The Bavarian royalty invited the citizens of Munich to attend the festivities, held on the fields in front of the city gates.” This moment in history occurred on October 12, 1810 in Bavaria, near Munich in the southeast part of Germany.
Since this column is devoted to all things Denton, perhaps readers are wondering how this historical nugget has anything at all to do with us. Technically, it has nothing to do with us. But this 1810 wedding gave birth to Oktoberfest, and this coming Friday, October 3, Denton will unveil an all new Oktoberfest on Walnut. More on that in a moment.
In researching the origins of Oktoberfest, I came across an article by Tim Worstall in the September 25, 2011 Forbes magazine business blog: “Oktoberfest: It's Not Really About an Old Bavarian Marriage You Know.” I was intrigued because, I confess, all I’ve really ever thought about Oktoberfest is fall festivals, German polka, and beer. I didn’t even know about the wedding that started it all. And according to Worstall, I’m one in the vast majority. Like most of our celebrations and traditions, Oktoberfest’s roots go way back, much further back than that royal German wedding more than 200 years ago.
History.com explains what most of us know: Beer is a focal point of the celebration. The website states an astounding statistic that, “more than 1 million gallons of beer are consumed annually at Oktoberfest.” Beer’s role in the celebration is no coincidence and is, in fact, where way-back-traditions met the wedding in the first place.
The history of Oktoberfest is actually quite wrapped up in the history of beer and brewing from millennia ago in ancient Egypt through the agricultural economy’s reign, which was not eclipsed until the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s. In those long ago eras, the year was invested in growing the necessary ingredients. Without the blessing of artificial refrigeration, back-then-brewers had to wait for cool weather to arrive before the brewing could begin. Until those temps dropped, everyone downed last year’s beer that got older with each passing day. Around mid-September as the cool weather blew in, beer-making was in full swing and parties popped up everywhere to celebrate new, good beer in the mugs again. The festivities lasted from mid-September through early October.
There is speculation that the royal German family planned the 1810 wedding to concur with the new beer’s arrival. As Worstall states in his article, “many other ‘holiday practices’ come from very similar ‘invent a reason for people to do what they’re already doing’ type reasoning.” So the wedding just established an annual reason to have a big party that celebrated something else on top of what folks were already celebrating. And spanning the globe, criss-crossing cultures, we are still festing today.
While not Denton’s first Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest on Walnut is the new version brought to us by many of the same volunteer organizers and sponsors who put together our first very successful Mardi Gras on Walnut back in March. Walnut Street, one block south of the Square will close to traffic and transform into a little version of Munich’s largest festival in the world, Denton-style, of course. Oh, all the Oktoberfest mainstays will be there in plenty, brats, strudel, pretzels and other Bavarian-style eats. And beer.
Like most Denton events, Oktoberfest is for everyone, the whole family. Count on root beer, floats, and lots of ice cream, too.
Live music is a given aspect of Dentoning. Oktoberfest will pour on the polka with UNT’s Das Oom-Pahs and Denton’s own Ron & the Finklesteiners. There will be all manner of family-friendly shenanigans like nail hammering contests, costume contests, stein hoisting contests, and even a kids’ kazoo marching band. Admission is free and festival proceeds are going to the Kiwanis Club of Denton Children’s Clinic.
It all starts at 5:00 p.m. The official tapping of the Firkin will be at 6:00 p.m. Firkin, you ask? Well, that’s yet more of the Oktoberfest story. In short, it’s a beer barrel. To learn why it’s special, google Firkin or just follow this link.
Who knew Oktoberfest had such deep roots? Well, perhaps you did. One thing is certain and will be new to us all. Denton’s Oktoberfest will be an original, independent twist on the old traditions.