Organizers detail history of Oktoberfest


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Oktoberfest is scheduled for Sunday at the Champaign County Historical Society from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 809 E. Lawn Avenue, Urbana.

The word Oktoberfest brings to mind a celebration with lots of German food, dark beer, music, children playing and laughter — a celebration held after a summer of hard work and fall harvest.

Actually, the first Oktoberfest was held for a different reason. Oktoberfest began on October 12, 1810, when Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. These royals strayed from bougie tradition and turned the wedding into a public event, inviting the people of Munich to come to the fields in front of the city gates and celebrate the union. The shindig lasted for days; free food and beer flowed through the city. The celebration concluded with a horse race. Seeing as the royal family couldn’t celebrate a wedding every year on October 12, it was the annual horse race that promoted the tradition of Oktoberfest.

Through the years, the event has evolved into an agricultural celebration of the last harvest. It is a celebration of the bounty of the land. Many U.S. cities, particularly those with large German-American populations, hold Oktoberfests such as the one in Urbana, featuring beer and German food in an attempt to reproduce the Bavarian sense of gemutlichkeit — cordiality. German immigrants were the largest number of foreign-born settlers of Ohio and Champaign County and the Champaign County Historical Society Oktoberfest acknowledges and celebrates this German heritage.

More than 70 crafters, performers, organizations and food vendors will join the festivities at the Champaign County Historical Society’s 49th Annual Oktoberfest to be held Sunday. Admission is cash only — $3 for adults and children under 10 years accompanied by an adult are admitted free. Parking is available in the city lot adjacent to the museum grounds. There are no pets allowed and there is no rain date.

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Information from Sandy Gonzalez

Information from Sandy Gonzalez