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Friends of Ironton keep Oktoberfest rolling

When you hear the word “Oktoberfest,” it is almost certain that one thing comes to mind … Bavarian Beer Festival!

The truth is there is much more behind-the-scenes information that lurks beneath the countless years of this world-renowned Bavarian tradition. This year’s Oktoberfest is in full stride and continues October 4.

It’s a festival of fine food, great music, carnival rides and, of course, beer. I was fortunate to be able to sample these festivities on a couple of occasions when traveling in the “old world.”

This internationally known event grew out of a royal wedding celebration. Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on the 12th of October in 1810.

The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy royal event.

The fields have been named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s fields”) in honor of the Crown Princess.

Horse races in the presence of the royal family marked the close of the event that was celebrated as a festival for the whole of Bavaria.

The decision to repeat the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the Oktoberfest.

In 1811 an added feature to the horse races was the first Agricultural Show, designed to boost Bavarian agriculture.

The horse races, which were the oldest and — at one time — the most popular event of the festival, are no longer held today.

But the Agricultural Show is still held every three years during the Oktoberfest on the southern part of the festival grounds. The first carousel and two swings were set up in 1818.

Visitors were able to quench their thirst at small beer stands which grew rapidly in number.

In 1896, the beer stands were replaced by the first beer tents and halls set up by enterprising landlords with the backing of the breweries.

The remainder of the festival site was taken up by a fun-fair. The range of carousels etc. on offer was already increasing rapidly in the 1870s as the fairground trade continued to grow and develop in Germany.

Today, the Oktoberfest is the largest festival in the world, with an international flavor characteristic of the 21th century: Some 6 million visitors from all around the world converge on the Oktoberfest each year.

And since the Oktoberfest is still held on the Theresienwiese, the locals still refer to the event simply as the “Wies’n.”

So, “welcome to the Wies’n” means nothing other than “welcome to the Oktoberfest!”

A little bit of this German festival is brought to Ironton on Oct. 10 and 11 as the Friends of Ironton host their annual “Oktoberfest” at Depot Square.

Save the date and plan to stop by for a brat, a brew, good music and “Gemuchlicht!”

Mark your calendar and plan to attend the 2010 festivities in Munchen. In addition to the “Fest,” Munich offers excellent museums, baroque palaces, inspiring cathedrals plus much more and makes a great location for a week-long vacation.

Munich’s “fest” also coincides with Oberammergau’s world famous and spectacular Passion Play.

The Passion Play is performed every 10 years in the city of Oberammergau, Germany.

The Oberammergau Passion Play is a play of life and death, promised in a moment of mortal threat and so began the history of the play in 1633.

Go ahead add some outdoor drama to your itinerary. You deserve it!