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National Guardsman helped to start first Oktoberfest

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- Many cultures have their own customs, festivals and holiday celebrations that are unique to their history. Sometimes, we make an association with the festival or event based on the month that it takes place, and even put out holiday decorations at our home accordingly. Look at some examples; March is the "month of St. Patrick's Day," celebrated by mainly Irish-Americans. People tend to think of bagpipe music, parades, eating corned beef and cabbage and going to a parade. May is when Cinco-de-Mayo falls and is celebrated by Mexican-Americans, with more parades and festivals. In October, people think about October-fest when folks drink beer and listen to polka music. Ironically, for German-Americans, Oktoberfest is finished by the first weekend of October!

Let's learn a few things about Oktoberfest and why it is actually incorrect to think of it as happening in October. Held annually in Munich, Germany, Oktoberfest is the world's largest beer festival and funfair (Volksfest). Of course, there are Munich-like festivals all over the world, but the festival at Wiesn in Munich is the biggest and oldest. This 16-day festival starts mid- to-late September, and ends the first weekend of October. We need to understand the history of the festival to find out why this is so.

Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, was married to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 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 were named Theresienwiese ("Theresa's meadow") in honor of the Crown Princess, and have kept that name ever since, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the "Wiesn." To end the celebrations from the royal wedding on October 17, horse races were held in honor of the newlyweds. This idea was proposed by Andreas Micheal Dall'Armi, who was a major in the National Guard. It is reported that the origins of the horse races and Oktoberfest itself were proposals from a coachman, and sergeant in the National Guard, Franz Baumgartner. So you see that Oktoberfest, and some of the customs followed even today, were started by members of the National Guard. It is interesting to know the impact a few soldiers can have.