Since its origins in 1810, the Oktoberfest has changed substantially. The horse races were last held in 1960, and the agricultural show is put on only every four years. The eventstill takes place on the "Theresienwiese" ("Theresa's meadow"), which was named after the new bride; to the locals, it's simply known as "Wies'n". During the two weeks before the first Sunday inOctober, these fairgrounds are transformed into a city of beer tents, amusements, rides, performers, and booths of vendors peddling gastronomic delights and traditional confections. The mayor of Munichopens the festivities at noon on the first day of the fair when he drives the wooden tap into a barrel of beer and proclaims O'zapft is! ("It's tapped!").
The Costume and Riflemen's Procession takesplace on the first Sunday of the festival, in which some 7000 performers -- groups in traditional costumes and historical uniforms, marching bands, riflemen, thoroughbred horses and other livestock,old-fashioned carriages, and numerous floats -- parade through the streets of Munich's city center showcasing the diversity of local, regional, and national customs. The second Sunday of the Oktoberfestfeatures an open-air big band concert involving the 400 or so musicians who comprise all of the Oktoberfest bands.
Between events and beer tents, guests can traverse the 103 acre Oktoberfestgrounds to ride a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, or water slide, navigate their way through a labyrinth, visit a haunted house, be entertained by numerous types of performers, take a look at the fleacircus, stop off at one of dozens of game booths, or take a festival tour, among other things.
Oktoberfest beer is of a variety called Märzen. Darker and stronger thantraditional beer, Märzen contains up to 6% alcohol, is bottom-fermented, and is lagered for at least 30 days. Before the advent of modern refrigeration techniques, this type of beer was brewed in March (as...