The history of the Oktoberfest begins with the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen on 17 October 1810. The townspeople were so enthusiastic that they named the meadow, where the wedding festivities took place, after the bride, calling it 'Theresienwiese.’ The festival continued to take place in the following years. That explains why local citizens and Oktoberfest devotees refer to the festival merely as the 'Wies'n'. The festival grew more, and thus more people came to it, first from the Bavarian countryside and later from the whole of Germany. Before long it was an international event.
As early as 1860 the Oktoberfest could boast of 100, 000 visitors. Almost every year set a new record, amounting to a phenomenal 7.1 million visitors in 1985. In 1897 the first of the 'festival tents' was set up to keep the occasional rainstorms from spoiling the fun. The Wies'n also drew an increasing number of sideshows, and before long the first merry-go-rounds. The 'public executions' at Schichtl's, the twittering of Vogeljakob, the Krinoline and the Flea Circus still exist today. In 1910, at the one-hundredth Oktoberfest, the first beer record was set: 12, 000 hectolitres of Wies'n beer (316, 800 gallons). In 2000 6.6 million litres of the noble liquid (approx. 1.74 million gallons) quenched the thirsts of Oktoberfest visitors.
In 1950 Thomas Wimmer, Munich's highly popular Lord Mayor, founded a ceremony that has become a worldwide media event: each year the mayor of Munich personally taps the first keg of Spaten beer in the Schottenhamel beer tent to open the Oktoberfest, crowing the deed with the jubilant cry of 'O'zapft is!' ('It's tapped!'). Incidentally, the skill that the mayor develops over the years, and the number of hammer-blows he has to use, play a large role in his prestige among the Munich townspeople.
The Oktoberfest has moved with the times. Each year the roller coaster and the rides offer new spectacular high-tech attractions; each year people stand on tables in the beer tents, swaying to the sounds of the latest Wies'n hit. Yet it has remained a site of hallowed traditions. The Bavarians - not to mention many a foreign visitor - display their colourful local costumes and leather shorts, listening to music from the brass bands. Even the traditional riflemen's and folk dress parade is the largest and the most beautiful and historically significant of its kind in the world.