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Saturday, September 16, 2006

If it's September it Must be Oktoberfest in Munich

In a few hours at noon local time the Lord Mayor of Munich will climb on to a stage in the Schottenhamel tent and tap a keg of beer to set off a huge 18-day party otherwise known as Oktoberfest.

If all goes as planned, more than 6 million people will attend the Sept. 16-Oct. 1 party. It's the 173rd time people have ventured to the Theresienwiese for the celebration, first held in 1810 in honor of Crown Prince Ludwig´s (King Ludwig I) marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.

Attendees will pay a bit more for ein mass (a liter mug) of beer this year, $8.80 to $9.50, but don't expect the price to slow anyone down. It's estimated that about 30 percent of the annual production of Munich's six major breweries in consumed during the festival. Organizers believe they will top last year's totals when Oktoberfest fans consumed 6.1 million liters of beer, 95 oxen, 55,913 pork knuckles, 479,610 fried chickens and 179,557 pairs of sausages. Not to mention tons of giant pretzels, bushels of fish on a stick and enough sauerkraut to be concerning. There are 14 large tents at Oktoberfest where you can kick up your heels with anywhere from just over 1,000 of your best friends in the smallest one to nearly 10,000 close pals in the largest. There are about an equal number of smaller tents, many focusing more on traditional Bavarian foods and even German wine. On the grounds there are seats for 100,000 festival fanatics.

It's more than every fraternity brother's dream. Whenever you put 6 million happy people in one place marketers are sure to follow. The first to do so were the six Munich breweries -- Lowenbrau, Spaten, Augustiner, Hofbrau, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr . This year among the hawkers will be Paris Hilton, expected to show up pushing canned prosecco.

Just in case anyone escapes Oktoberfest thirsty, Munich Airport has microbrewery and biergarten, Airbrau, which has brewed up 6,000 liters of a special festival or "“Wiesn" beer they are calling Jet A1.

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