Tomorrow is the last day of Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. The festival began in 1810 as a celebration of the crown prince’s marriage and has continued every year since. In Munich the 17-day event begins in September and ends the first Sunday in October. About six million people attend—making it the world’s largest folk festival—enjoying a carnival atmosphere as well as traditional music, foods and of course beer.
Certainly there is a long history of brewing in Bavaria. In 1516, a quality-control law passed to ensure that the only ingredients in the beer were barley, hops and water. This also had the effect of reserving rye and wheat for bread baking.
Archeologists tell us that beer-brewing began when the first cities appeared in what is now southern Iraq. Without modern water treatment facilities, beer was safer to drink than water. In fact, folks in the ancient world were paid in beer and bread. Their beer, though brewed with malted barley and water, did not taste like our beer. It contained no hops and was flavored with honey and dates. Still, it was clearly the beverage of choice.
German immigrants brought Oktoberfest to America. The longest-running event here is in Helen, Georgia. While not the largest in the U.S., it is considered one of the best. It begins the first weekend in September and continues daily until October 27. Visitors may see the sights of Helen in a step-on/hop-off bus, enjoy Art in the Park, or ride in a hot air balloon. There are Oompa bands and polka dancing as well as traditional German foods and beer. Monday through Friday entry costs $8, Saturday $10, and Sunday is free.
Rock City’s Rocktoberfest begins today and continues every weekend in October. This harvest celebration features German-themed food and entertainment. Visitors can enjoy watching traditional Bavarian dances and learn the polka while listening to Oompa bands. Besides Rock City’s popular raptor shows, there are mime artists and storytelling. The attraction is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $14.95 for children 3-12 and $26.95 for those 13 and up.
The Chattanooga Market will have its 18th Oktoberfest next weekend. It begins at 8 p.m. on October 12 and runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m on the 13th. There will be four Bier Gartens as well as the Wurstbrat Oompa Band. Of course, attendees can enjoy shopping and good things to eat.
Though we missed the Munich extravaganza, we can celebrate Oktoberfest close to home.
Master gardener Ann Bartlett lifts her stein to the happy and time-honored relationship between Bier and Gartens in the ornamental beds surrounding her home.