Oktoberfest Facts – History, Beer, Food & More
From barrels brimming with beer and boots made for drinking to Bavarian pretzels and pork knuckles, Oktoberfest has it all. That’s why this centuries-old celebration brings more than five million partiers to Munich for a couple weeks each October. Yet only about 2% of the crowd typically hails from the U.S. And it’s little wonder why, considering the trip would cost the average American roughly $5,000, according to WalletHub estimates.
But much like it’s always five o’clock somewhere, you don’t need to visit the original Oktoberfest to feel the vibe. Many cities host their own festivals – most notably, Cincinnati and San Francisco. Even more local watering holes throw themed parties. Or maybe you just want to get festive at home. No matter what, we’ve got all the information you need to actually understand what you’re prost-ing to. Enjoy (responsibly)!
For tips on budgeting, safety and hosting a citywide Oktoberfest celebration, we posed the following questions to a panel of experts. You can check out their bios and responses below.
- What tips do you have for celebrating Oktoberfest on a budget?
- In evaluating the best cities for celebrating Oktoberfest, what are the top five indicators?
- What are some social and economic considerations for cities looking to host Oktoberfest celebrations?
- How can local authorities promote safety and reduce alcohol-related accidents during Oktoberfest?
Harm reduction is very important for alcohol-related social events. It is unrealistic to expect people not to drink, as drinking is essentially the point of Oktoberfest. Messaging should therefore refer to drinking safely. Some examples include:
- Don't drive to drinking events. Oftentimes, you will read “don't drink and drive” -- but if you've been drinking, your judgment is impaired, and although when sober you recognize you should not do this, when you're drinking, you may not realize your point of impairment when you get in the car. If you don't have a car there, you can't drive it.
- Eat a full meal before going, and snack while you're there. This can slow the rate of alcohol absorption.
- Alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
- Offer non-alcohol beer in kegs -- people looking to take a break from drinking, but don't want to be pressured by others to drink more, can fill their mugs with the nonalcoholic versions.
- Punch card wristbands -- if an event requires people to wear wristbands, and those distributing the beer punch a hole in it each time they serve, they can have a maximum number of drinks allowed per person.
- Ample taxis and Ubers at the ready for those who do not heed the “don't drive to the drinking event” advice.
- Do not allow the playing of drinking games.
- Accept cash only, people will drink less when they see the cash leaving their pockets (and they will likely run out of cash).
- Clearly list the alcohol content of each brew (some people don't realize the variety out there).
- Be vigilant about underage drinking. Establish a process for checking and monitoring attendees’ IDs.
- Consider offering training to servers to help them recognize individuals who may be approaching their limit.
- Touch base with local law enforcement to ensure that adequate security is in place.
- Offer plenty of non-alcoholic beverages, such as water, coffee, and soft drinks.
- Have snacks and food available at the event.
- Encourage the use of “designated drivers” for those who do decide to consume alcohol.
- Publicize alternative methods of transportation, such as public transportation, taxis, Uber, etc.
The best way to promote alcohol safety is to promote drinking in moderation. Of course, people who do not drink alcohol are never encouraged to start drinking, but those who already drink should do so in moderation. For men, this means no more than two standard drinks (e.g., 12 ounces of beer), and for women, one drink. Binge drinking, typically defined as five drinks for men or four drinks for women within approximately 2 hours, is dangerous, and should always be avoided.
One way to moderate your drinking during an event is to “nurse” your drink. By consuming your alcohol more slowly, you will likely consume less, save money, and allow your body to better metabolize the alcohol, reducing levels of intoxication. It is important to remember, however, that every individual responds to alcohol differently; these are merely guidelines.
A great way to promote safety and reduce alcohol-related accidents during Oktoberfest is to offer alternative alcohol-free activities and events. While there is a tone to Oktoberfest that focuses around partaking in alcohol, there are still many people that want to celebrate the cultural event without the use of alcohol. Having plenty of activities and events that do not focus on alcohol is a great way to show people that there are many other people that want to celebrate without drinking.
Another strategy that can be used is to have alcohol safety outreach and materials at Oktoberfest events. For instance, there are Blood Alcohol Concentration cards that could be distributed to help people understand and calculate what their alcohol levels are based on how much they drink (among other factors). This can help people, who do choose to drink, to make safer choices about how much they drink. Having these tools can help them to understand how to drink within safer and legal limits.
Finally, it can be helpful to have organizations that promote safe drinking, alternatives to drinking, and education, to be present at Oktoberfest events. Some organizations will distribute educational materials about the dangers of drinking and show demonstrations, via intoxication simulation glasses, of the dangers of driving while under the influence. Implementing these strategies at Oktoberfest events can help attendees to make safer choices, while still having fun and celebrating the holiday.
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