Jun 14, 2017

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Just three months until the 2017 Oktoberfest

Just three months until the 2017 Oktoberfest

If you’re only just getting used to the long evenings and warm weather, sorry to be the first ones to remind you that it’ll soon be autumn by mentioning the Oktoberfest 2017! Then again, the first of you have already been asking about our customary Wiesn preview – so here it is! After all, while we’re all enjoying the summer, the Munich city authorities, the tent landlords, and thousands of others are already turning their thoughts to the 2017 Oktoberfest.

This means that the first news about this year’s Fest is already in the public domain, so read on to find out what we already know at the three-months-mark – and keep stopping by at two months and then one month for our follow-up previews to the Wiesn 2017.

2017 Oktoberfest: Dates

Well, the dates have been known for quite some time: just like Easter and sports fixtures, anyone who knows the rules can work out years in advance when the Oktoberfest is set to start. The tapping of the first keg must take place at midday on the first Saturday after the 15th September, meaning that this year’s opening on Saturday 16th September is the earliest possible.

This is followed by the usual run of Wiesn dates, from the traditional costume parade through Munich on Sunday 17/09, the family discount Tuesdays on 19/09 and 26/09, and the brass band concert at the feet of the Bavaria statue on the second Oktoberfest Sunday, 24th September. However, the rest of the Oktoberfest 2017 calendar is drawn out towards the end by the fact that the Day of German Unity on 3rd October falls on a Tuesday: this is very good news both for tent landlords and for visitors because it means that the Oktoberfest 2017 will run through until this bank holiday instead of ending on the third Sunday; this means an almanac-maximum of 18 drinking days (as opposed to the standard 16).

Earliest possible opening date? Longest allowable opening period? Yes, the Oktoberfest 2017 is already headed for the record books before it’s even started!

2017 Oktoberfest: Politics

Some say you need to be a convicted tax fraudster to lose a licence on a big tent at the Oktoberfest

We’ve been going to the Wiesn for years now and in the time we’ve been going, it has become increasingly politicised. It’s easy enough to work out why: on the one hand, the Oktoberfest brings in more and more money year on year, both to the private businesses who get concessions to open on the Theresienwiese during the magic two weeks and to the city coffers in terms of the taxes levied on every beer sold, every hotel room occupied, and every drunken taxi ride taken. As such, there are vested interests both in the private and public sector on the one hand and a huge amount of interest – and emotion – in the general public on the other.

It’s important to remember this when trying to understand why politicians from a supposedly business-friendly party like the CSU surprise other parties in city hall by suddenly demanding a beer price cap (listen out for the word Bierpreisbremse this autumn): Josef Schmid probably wasn’t surprised that the other parties slapped down his suggestion as “populist” and refused to introduce legislation to stop the annual beer price rise – in fact, he was probably banking on not having to implement it – but the temptation to make these kinds of demands to get votes shows just how political the Oktoberfest is in Munich. It’s like baguettes and coffee in Paris (both regulated).

Smaller tents like Heimer (2016)…

… and Poschner (2015) get pushed around.

Yet while the city’s politicians play “men of the people” by grandstanding on the price of beer, they are actually quite hostile to small businessmen when it comes to renewing concessions on the Theresienwiese. At recent fests, at least one of the smaller tents has had its application refused on unexplained grounds every year (in 2015, it was Poschner’s; in 2016, Heimer had to clear off), while the major tents seemingly have carte blanche: the only one to have been refused a concession in recent decades was Hippodrom – and that was only because its landlord was silly enough to get caught with a till that was off the books.

2017 Oktoberfest poster

This year’s crowd-sourced poster for the Oktoberfest

From talking to Munich residents and long-time Fest-goers, our view is that Munich’s city authorities would do well to stick to their guns on beer prices: sure, everyone moans a bit about them, but there’s no sign that people are about to stop going because of the price of a tankard. What people in Munich do increasingly expect, however, is a measure of transparency about how the Oktoberfest is organised and how lucrative places on the Theresienwiese are dealt out. It’s all very well holding a public vote on this year’s poster as a sign that it really is a festival for the people: real participation is a different matter altogether (all the more given that the city still used a panel to select its winner following the initial vote, so it wasn’t really a public vote after all…)

2017 Oktoberfest: Tents

News on tents this year is, thus far, good (let’s hope all of the smaller ones get their licences renewed this time round). For a start, the traditional Oide Wiesn is back after its absence due to the quadrennial agricultural expo on the southern half of the Theresienwiese, so the 2017 Oktoberfest already promises to be a bumper fest: and the Oide Wiesn isn’t just back, but back with an extra tent named Zur Schönheitskönigin. That means “To the Beauty Queen” in German, and, yes, there will indeed be a daily pageant in which the best-looking female guest will be crowned, as well as lots of traditional Bavarian singing. It’s almost enough to make you forget the slightly higher entry price this year, the Oide Wiesn being the only part of the Oktoberfest which charges.

The tent will be new, but the ox will still be turning.

Finally, after the Schützenfestzelt in 2015 and Hacker in 2016, this time round, it’s the turn of the Ochsenbraterei to have a make-over. We always love it when a much-loved tent comes back looking even better than ever, so we’re especially looking forward to the new-look Ochsenbraterei. And before you ask, yes, they are keeping that handy navigational aid, the ox on a spit over the entrance… Truly, the 2017 Oktoberfest is shaping up to be the best yet.

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