Most Sunshine Residents Agree: Oktoberfest Ist Wunderbar!

Most Sunshine Residents Agree: Oktoberfest Ist Wunderbar!


With the calendar quickly creeping into the middle of October, many Sunshine Retirement Communities have been indulging in the uniquely Bavarian joys of Oktoberfest. Unlike some other popular cultural celebrations like St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo that cram a lot of festivities and a fair amount of beer into just one day, Oktoberfest, as most people know, actually gets started in late September and carries on for about two weeks. But that wasn’t always the case.

For those who don’t remember their German heritage, or would just like to celebrate the season like a true Bavarian, here’s a quick recap of how Oktoberfest got its oompah.

The 5-minute history of Oktoberfest

Contrary to what you might think, Oktoberfest initially had nothing to do with the fall harvest. It started in 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, who would later become King Ludwig I, organized festivities and a horse race to celebrate his marriage to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The wedding was held on October 12 and the celebration took place five days later in a field outside the city gates of Munich. With more than 40,000 Bavarians attending, it was so popular, the royal family decided to hold it again the following year in the same meadow, which eventually became named “Theresienwise,” after the princess. And that was the start of Oktoberfest.

In 1811, an agricultural show, known simply as Bayerisches Zentral-Landwirtschaftsfest, was added and continues to be held once every three years to this day. In 1819, responsibility for the festivities was passed from the royal family to the city of Munich. In 1835, on the 25th anniversary, Oktoberfest was extended to include a full week of festivities. And at the end of the 19th century, the celebrants decided to start it earlier to hopefully take advantage of more favorable weather. Later, it was extended to a 16- or 17-day celebration beginning on the third weekend in September, concluding on the first Sunday of October; unless the first Sunday is October 1st or 2nd, in which case the festival is extended to October 3rd.

The horse races were finally discontinued in 1960. But over the years, parades, games and contests, carousels, roller coasters and of course, the ever-popular beer tents have been added to keep the excitement levels up. And the rest, as they say, is Geschichte.

Oktoberfest fun facts

Here are a few fast and fascinating facts about Oktoberfest to amaze your friends, German or otherwise:

  • It takes two months to setup the festival and one month to disassemble it.
  • With free admission to the festival grounds and the beer tents, attendance Oktoberfest averages around six million people each year.
  • All Oktoberfest beer is brewed within the city limits of Munich and is 2% stronger than regular German beer. Nearly two million gallons of it will be consumed during the festival.
  • The amount of beer consumed is probably a lot higher because the legal drinking age for beer in Germany is 16, and just 14 if you’re accompanied by an adult.
  • Drunk patrons who have passed out due to the higher-than-usual alcohol content are known as “Bierleichen” – beer corpses – in German.
  • The iconic one-litre glass beer stein was first used at Oktoberfest in 1892 and is naturally a popular souvenir. Last year, security guards prevented more than 226,000 of them from being stolen by sneaky patrons.
  • The world record for carrying the most steins full of beer belongs to a barman named Oliver Strumpfel, who lugged 27 of them the required¬ distance of 40 meters in 2014. (That’s 110 lbs., folks.) The women’s record of carrying 19 full steins has belonged to Frau Anita Schwarz since 2008.
  • At today’s prices, Oliver was hauling well over $300 worth of beer. A one-litre stein will set you back $12 these days. People seem more than happy to pay that because they have to fork over $9 for just a bottle of water.
  • With all that drinking and tipsiness, it should come as no surprise that the Oktoberfest Lost & Found department stays extremely busy. Last year, in addition to 350 cell phones, 370 pairs of glasses, 425 car and hotel keys, 520 wallets and 1,000 passports, there were also claims for 48 lost children, a pair of crutches, a set of dentures, an electric wheelchair and a Viking helmet.
  • Around the world, Oktoberfest imitations are naturally very popular throughout the U.S. and Canada. But they’re also held as far away as Blumenau (Brazil), Lima (Peru), Bangalore (India), Hoh-Chi-Minh City (Vietnam), Hong Kong and even in the West Bank town of Taybeh, home of the only Palestinian brewery.

Oktoberfest closer to home

In the world of Sunshine Retirement Communities, Oktoberfest has already been celebrated at Quail Lodge in Antioch, California; Summerfield Estates in Tigard, Oregon; Brook Ridge in Pharr, Texas; The Verandah in Lake Charles, Louisiana; Waterford Terrace in La Mesa, California; and The Haven at North Hills in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Both The Haven in Pittsburgh and Fountain Crest in Lehigh Acres, Florida will be dancing the polka with live entertainment today. And The Gardens at Brook Ridge in Pharr, Texas gets into the spirit next Wednesday.

Yesterday, Waterford Terrace went all out with a sumptuous buffet prepared by the Executive Chef. After the meal, residents got to enjoy cold beer and authentic German music and dances. All common areas were decorated to get everyone in the mood. And of course, residents and staff were encouraged to dress up.

“Surprisingly, Oktoberfest doesn’t have a sentimental value to some of our residents with a German heritage,” claims Life Enrichment Director, Muzit Sebhatlab.

According to Waterford Terrace resident Shirley Voelker, her family never celebrated it. And Oktoberfest was not a big deal to Mary Torney, because her family never drank any type of alcohol. But that won’t deter many Sunshine residents from enjoying some tasty schnitzel or a warm soft pretzel, tossing back a cold one, and maybe even wearing some lederhosen this month. Ein Prosit, everyone!

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, October, 2018. Some information provided by and

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