Although the horse races are no longer held today, more attractions such as carousels, fairground rides and food stands have gradually been introduced over the years. By the end of the 19th century, the small beer stands were replaced by the first beer tents and halls, which featured dance floors and even bowling alleys. The biggest tent was set up in 1913 with more than 65,000 square yards and seats for 12,000 people.
Today the festivities are still opened by a parade of colorfully bedecked horse drawn beer wagons and marching bands, following by men and women from the local beer breweries in their traditional Bavarian garb. The official beginning is marked at the stroke of noon on the opening Saturday when Munich 's mayor taps the first barrel of new beer with the famous cry "O' zapft is" (it is tapped). Beer may not be served in any of the many beer tents at the Theresienwiese until the mayor has tapped the keg!
It's not surprising that Munich's Oktoberfest revelers imbibe about five million liters of that city's most famous product in the two-week period, but they're a hungry group too. Hundreds of thousands of chicken, oxen and sausages roast on spits throughout the city, and 45 million tons of fish are grilled.
Oktoberfest is not the time to keep the sweet tooth in check either. Germany's famed chocolates and candies are dispensed with smiles from booths throughout the festival grounds and it's the same for its almost infinite variety of cheeses and delicacies.
It's a celebration that has caught on in cities across America. The American version of Oktoberfest is usually carried out much like a state fair with beer, hot dogs and carnival rides. This popular beer festival relies on the popular foods that have come to America from Germany. To host an official Oktoberfest celebration at home, be sure to serve pretzels and mustard alongside authentic German grilled sausages, imported German beer such as Pils or Hefeweizen, and a selection of quality German cheeses. And, hopefully, the host can offer better seating odds than the typical seven to one at the actual Oktoberfest! Most importantly, remember to say, Prost! or "Cheers!" to the couple that started it all!