The first Oktoberfest took place in Munich, Germany, in 1810, when the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig was to be wed to Princess Therese on Oct. 12. Prince Ludwig was known to be obsessed with history, and wanted a public event that could be compared to the Olympic Games of old. He organized a public horse race in a meadow outside of Munich, and the festival was born on October 17. The event was so popular that it has been held ever since. The second year, they added an agricultural fair to the event, and that portion of Oktoberfest still exists in Munich every three years. Year by year events and food have been added, but it still takes place in that meadow, now named Theresienwiese (Wiesn for short) after Princess Therese.
“Oktoberfest” and “beer.” To anyone who has been to Oktoberfest (or even just heard of it) those two words go together like peanut butter and jelly. But what most people don’t know is that Oktoberfest in Munich didn’t even include beer for the first 70 years of its existence. In 1881, the city council finally allowed beer sales and the first grilled chicken stand. Those seven dry decades aren’t the only shocking truth about Oktoberfest. There’s this one: Some of the first beer stands were built in trees. Those poor stein-wielding Germans had to climb trees to get beer. That has schrecklich kämpfen written all over it.
Soon beer became a staple in the festivities. The biggest beer tent to ever be erected, the Bräurosl, was built in 1913 on the grounds with enough space for 12,000 guests. Although it still exists, it only holds half of what it used to, but don’t worry. They built the Hofbräu-Festzelt to hold 10,000 more.
In 1950, the opening ceremony tradition began. The Lord Mayor of Munich starts the festivities by tapping the first keg and yelling “O’zapft is,” announcing that the keg has been tapped. Beer may not have been around in the beginning, but it later became the elixir of Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest is still going strong in Munich. Every year the event generates about one billion euros in business, and the 200th anniversary in 2010 was the biggest Oktoberfest celebration ever. (Average daily attendance was 375,000). It has become a massive tourist event sporting souvenirs, art, agriculture, amusement rides, music, authentic German food and, of course, beer on tap.
Lazy Monk Oktoberfest
Sept. 27 • 4-10pm, Oct. 4 • 4-10pm
The Lazy Monk Taproom
320 Putnam St., Eau Claire
Oktoberfest USA: La Crosse*
Northside & Southside Festgrounds
La Crosse, Wis.
October 4 • 9am-evening
Dallas Park, Old Mill Pond
*La Crosse’s festival, which began in 1961, brings in an average of 175,000 people over the course of a weekend. It features parades, live music, beers from both local breweries and German breweries, and a whole host of authentic German foods. In the early 1960s, the U.S. government approved the name of “Oktoberfest, USA” and the La Crosse event was born. Since then there have been many Oktoberfest celebrations throughout the United States (the largest is in Cincinnati) and all over the world. The German traditions echo in American society, as the United States is second only to Germany itself for the number of German-born citizens.
On July 15, 1980, a powerful windstorm hit our area, with the Eau Claire airport registering wind speeds of 112 mph before the measuring device was torn apart. Knocking out power for a week, the storm damaged homes and littered yards and streets with downed trees. While the storm brought people together in neighborhoods across the community to share the hard work of cleaning up trees and fixing damaged homes, it also created the necessity of sharing food from fridges and freezers that would otherwise spoil.
On the 400 block of Lincoln Avenue in the heart of the Third Ward, neighbors ran generators to keep a makeshift kitchen feeding the recovery effort for over a week. The camaraderie inspired a block party called the Storm Party, an evening potluck held annually on July 15 which marked its 34th year this summer. The tradition has lasted a generation, despite the fact that only a few people who were on the block in 1980 still live there. Thankfully some of the block’s newest and youngest residents have hosted the Storm Party in recent years, which by tradition alternates from one side of the street to the other each year. The host simply leaves fliers at each house on the block a few weeks prior to the party and folks show up that evening as if the block had a dinner bell that rang just once a year ... Keep reading!
Want more? Explore more Eau Claire neighborhoods in Volume One's new
Rebuilding Our Neighborhoods issue.
Take a quick look at some local statistics* exposing how we feel about own neighborhoods and our neighbors!
75% of Eau Claire residents say their neighborhood is an excellent or good place to live. Not bad at all. But what is the other 25% looking to change or add? Here are ten great ideas.
A whopping 95% of Eau Claire residents say their neighborhood is safe during the day. Not surprising considering the area is somewhat famous for its safety.
Only 37% of Eau Claire residents talk or visit with neighbors at least a few times a week. This isn't great. We can do better – and we should. Start here.
The number of officially designated neighborhood associations in the city of Eau Claire. Do you live in one of these neighborhoods? Find out.
Eau Claire originally had five neighborhood associations: Historic Randall Park, Mt. Washington, North River Fronts, North Side Hill, and Third Ward. Here's how you can start your own.
*Sources: City of Eau Claire; National Citizen Survey of Eau Claire (2012)
Filmed in Wisconsin: ’90s Edition! Apparently the 1990s was a special time when Wisconsin and filmmakers joined hands and decided to create magic together. Granted, Wisconsinites may not want to be associated with many of the movies coming from this partnership, but with so many movies, there’s gotta something for everyone.
Where in WI? Baraboo and Madison
According to IMDB, the keywords to describe this film are as follows: reporter, train, scoop, rivalry, hormone, and “man with glasses.” You really don’t need to know anything else. Watch!
Where in WI? Mount Zion and Prairie Du Chien
A David Lynch directorial project, this film was based off a true story of a man journeying across the Midwest – via lawn mower – to reconnect with his brother. That’s right; he hooked up a trailer to his mower and put-put-putted his way into everybody’s heart. Watch!
Where in WI? Twin Lakes and Kenosha
This movie ... isn’t good. But, Mario Lopez and Corey Haim were in it, and that’s enough for me. P.S. Try and look past the pixels in the preview. Watch!
Where in WI? Neenah and Oshkosh
A black-comedy about bugs in disguise as a suburban family, this movie boasts an impressive 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Apparently this film isn’t for everyone. Watch!
Where in WI? Ashland
After discovering a bag full of cash, these blue-collar fellas get some pretty exciting lives. Initially, Ben Stiller was to direct and Nicolas Cage to star. Can we just take a moment and imagine the possibilities? Watch!
Where in WI? Lake Geneva, Madison, Williams Bay
Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman, could you ask for a better combo? This sci-fi, action flick got sneaky and used our state’s capitol building to pose as the capitol building’s interior. But you can’t fool us, Keanu! Watch!