By Laura Kohler
The very first Wiesn took place in October of 1810. That first Wiesn was very different than the Volksfest we know today; it was a week of celebrations in the city of Munich held in honor of the wedding of Ludwig of Bayern and Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The Theresienwiese, and its nickname “Wiesn”, takes its name from this princess.
The celebrations came at a time when Munich was establishing itself as the cultural and bureaucratic center of Bavaria, and were therefore encouraged in the hopes that they would instil a fresh sense of local pride in the city’s residents. The celebrations culminated in a horse race on the a field before the city gates – the Theresienwiese.
A year later the horse race took place again, but this time included a showcase of the local farmers. The first rides were added in 1818. In 1819 administration of the festival passed from private hands into the city of Munich’s, which promised to continue hold the festival every year. The German entertainment industry experienced a boom in the 1880s, and many rides, attractions, and food stalls were added at this time, eventually leading to the first beer tents being built in 1896. The horse races were abandoned prior to the Second World War, making room for more attractions and eateries to join, and shaping the Wiesn into the international attraction it is today. Today, on average, 6 million people will visit the Wiesn each year.
Some of the history of the Wiesn can still be experienced today. The Oide Wiesn (Alte Wiesn in Bavarian) showcases traditional rides and traditional musicians, and dance troupes perform in the beer hall. Even on the main drag, historical rides and attractions remain sought-after destinations. The ferris wheel (Riesenrad, first established 1880; the current ferris wheel dates from 1979), the Krinoline (1920s), the Hexenschaukel (first presented at the Wiesn in 1894; the current one is an antique that doesn’t travel and can only be ridden at the Wiesn), the Toboggan (first appearance at the Wiesn was in 1906, though the current one dates from 1933), the Teufelsrad (1910), “Der Schichtl” (1869), Pitts Todeswand (1932; the motorcycles date from this time) are all historical attractions that can be visited by those with a taste for the sentimental.
For more information go to http://www.muenchen.de/veranstaltungen/oktoberfest/geschichte.html