Oktoberfest has gotten huge. With six million drinkers expected to descend on Munich's 64 acres of tents and consume roughly seven million liters of beer, the proceedings can no longer be described as a "regional celebration" or a "Bavarian Tradition." Oktoberfest may well be traditional, but surely a different beast from the fests of old.
There is nothing wrong with evolution, but Oktoberfest seems to be getting away from the Bavarians. At the point that the main focus of the event becomes profits rather than beer or pretzels or women in dirndls, the celebration becomes an attraction, Euro Disney for adults.
The most disconcerting news out of Munich thus far has been that the high prices are keeping locals from attending. The Guardian reports that a local group calling itself the Association Against Fraudulent Pouring is issuing public complaints about the fact that the average price of a liter of beer has risen nearly four dollars over the last ten years.
"The prices for beer sold during Oktoberfest rise every year without reason," Jan-Ulrich Bittlinger, president of the pro-drinking organization, told the paper.
As if that wasn't bad enough, the sky-high price for tables in the tents is on the rise as well even as organizers try to crack down on people selling the reservations on the second hand market. According to the German bureau of The Local 130 table reservations, worth some $5,100 apiece, have been sold online in violation of the festival's terms.
Prices will increase, but if locals get priced out than Munich ceases to be a participant and becomes a setting, a lovely Bavarian backdrop and little more. Unfortunately, evidence that Munich may be embracing this role can be found no further away than visitors' iPhones.
Though technology has supplied visitors with some logical and useful tools -- a new app provides drunk people with simplistic directions back to their hauses or hotels -- other services seem to indicate Munich's desire to attract groups that probably aren't well-suited to the feast. The official Oktoberfest app helps calorie-counters by supply the nutritional details of such perennial favorites as suckling pigs and giant pretzel. One wonders how many people willing to eat the better part of a pig or a treat with the word "giant" right there in the name are too concerned about watching their waist. This seems like concierge logic, an effort to be all things to all people made transparent by its sheer ludicrousness.
Oktoberfest isn't healthy. That was never the idea.
Originally, Oktoberfest was a glorified county fair designed to showcase German agriculture. Though the festival will probably not return to those agrarian roots -- who would want it to? -- hops growers and brewers should still be at the center of the event. They may not be the thinnest people at Oktoberfest, but they're the reason for the party.