Traditionally starting on the third Saturday of September and stretching until the first Sunday of October, Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival, has evolved over the past 206 years from an agricultural festival to an entertainment, activity-based large scale event. Music, dancing, traditional German clothing, complimented by gemutlichkeit, which means good food, good company, a drink or two and plenty of time to enjoy it all, have been gathering people every year people from all over the world in Munich and numerous other international locations.
Leading breweries in Munich (such as Augustiner Bräu and Hofbräu) set up tents at the Theresienwies’n (Theresa’s fields), a large green area in the proximity of the city centre where festivities are held. Each tent is an independent business selling beer, pretzels, and other traditional specialties. The cultural roots of the event and the traditional German festival style may still be found in Munich each year; locals in Bavarian costumes and millions of international visitors may be seen clinking beer steins together and yodeling to Oom-pa-pa music.
Although the historical elements of Bavarian culture are still present and celebrated as rituals and traditional experiences, the expansion of cultural perspectives has led to the introduction of innovative and challenging ideas at the annual Oktoberfest events.
To keep the Oktoberfest family-friendly, especially the beer tents, the concept of “quiet Oktoberfest” was developed in 2005. The orchestras in the tents play exclusively quiet brass music, such as traditional folk music, until 6:00pm. Schlager pop or electric music may be played in the later hours of the evening. With these rules, the organisers of Oktoberfest have been able to curb the tumultuous party spirit while preserving the traditional atmosphere. Starting in 2008, a new Bavarian law was passed to ban smoking in all enclosed spaces open to the public. The implementation of the ban faced challenges, therefore some exceptions were granted. Smoking in the tents is still legal, however the tents usually have smoking-free areas.
While the Oktoberfest is an important part of the Bavarian culture, due to the popularity of the Oktoberfest and its overall perception as an enjoyable high profile event, many cities all over the world have adopted the Oktoberfest image to stage a typical German beer festival in a similar form and fashion.
Oktoberfest events are held in different locations in London each year, such as the London’s Munich Beer Hall, which aims to welcome visitors with traditional German beer, together with meat and sausages sourced from Bavaria and served by staff wearing traditional Lederhosen and Dirndls for an authentic and memorable festival experience. London’s Millwall Park, Canary Wharf, has transformed into a traditional Oktoberfest with live music and great atmosphere. The organisers of the Oktoberfest in Millwall Park(3) have a special Sunday Lunch offer open to visitors who may wish to experience Bavarian culture for a day with their entire family. This event is open every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from September 29th to October 9th.
To the visitors, worldwide Oktoberfest events may be an opportunity for a social or cultural experience outside the normal range of choices or beyond everyday experiences. One of the notable characteristics of the Oktoberfest may be the overall financial benefits achieved through the link between the festival and the tourism sector, which may result in increased income for the host community. Shared experiences between national and international visitors and boosting community pride are examples of potential social impacts, while improved transportation and environmental awareness impact the physical side; international prestige and profile may have political implications, whereas increased tourist visits and job creation may impact at an economical level.
What event management strategies may contemporary cities adopt in order to organise successful traditional events?