Germany's Annual Oktoberfest Canceled for First the Time Since WWII
Well, there's no need to have your lederhosen dry cleaned, and you don't need to clear out any cabinet space for an oversized souvenir beer stein. Leaders in the German state of Bavaria have just announced that 2020 Oktoberfest, the world's largest folk festival, has been canceled this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Every fall, an estimated six million beer lovers, enthusiastic revelers, and tourists in brand new dirndls attend the two-week event in Munich, Germany. But in a joint press conference on Tuesday morning, Bavaria's Minister-President Markus Söder and Munich's Lord Mayor Dieter Reiter said that there was no way to safely go forward with the festivities this year. The Wiesn, as it's known locally, had been scheduled to begin on Saturday, September 19.
“Living with coronavirus means living carefully,” Söder said. “As long as there is no vaccination, we need to be very sensible. We are in mutual agreement that the risk is quite simply too high." Reiter called the cancellation "a bitter pill to swallow."
According to The Guardian, some of the brewers who participate in the festival had suggested holding a smaller event for Bavarian locals, but government officials didn't go for that idea. Clemens Baumgärtner, the head of Oktoberfest, said that scaling it back wasn't in the spirit of the festival.
"The Wiesn is a total work of art that you either do completely or not at all, and this work of art cannot be moved backwards or made in a smaller form," he said. "Let's do everything to ensure that we can celebrate a healthy, joyful, happy and fulfilling Oktoberfest in 2021."
The first Oktoberfest was held 210 years ago to celebrate the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. During those two-plus centuries, the Weisn has only been called off 24 times, including during the Napoleonic Wars, the Austro-Prussian War, and the Franco-Prussian War; during two separate cholera epidemics in the latter half of the 1800s; and during a period of hyperinflation in 1923 and 1924. This year will be the festival's first cancellation since World War II.
The announcement is both unexpected and totally unsurprising. Less than two weeks ago, the Financial Times reported that Munich hotels were still taking bookings for the festival, and members of the city council said that they may not make a decision about the event until May or June. But some medical professionals already knew how this would play out. "The odds to organise mass events like the Oktoberfest in 2020 are precisely zero,” Alexander Kekulé, a virology professor at the University of Halle, said in early April.
"I hope that in 2021... no, I'm sure that we will see another Oktoberfest in 2021, hopefully under different conditions by then," Lord Mayor Dieter Reiter said. "Until then, I must beg your indulgence that there was no other solution."