Oktoberfest returns to Germany after two-year pandemic absence

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Visitors reach out for free beer in the Paulaner beer tent during the opening of the 187th edition of the traditional Oktoberfest festival in Munich, Germany, on Saturday. Photo by Christian Bruna/EPA-EFE

Sept. 17 (UPI) — Shaking off a two-year hiatus necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany’s Oktoberfest celebration officially returned Saturday when the mayor of Munich tapped the first keg of beer.

Shortly before noon, Lord Mayor Dieter Reiter used three swings of the mallet to traditionally tap the first barrel of Oktoberfest beer at the Schottenhamel Festival Hall in Munich amid cheers from a crowd shouting, “O’zapft is! To a peaceful Wien (Oktoberfest)!”

The 187th edition of the traditional Oktoberfest beer and amusement festival runs from Saturday through Oct. 3 with millions of visitors are expected from all over the world, many of whom will no doubt look to make up for time lost during the two-year hiatus.

This year’s celebration will be one day longer than usual because of a public holiday on Oct. 3, which falls on a Monday.

During the opening ceremony, the Spaten beer tapped by Reiter was poured into a mug given to Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder, following the festival’s longstanding tradition.

Shortly afterwards, firecrackers were set off, signaling to the proprietors of the other tents that they were now free to start serving beer.

Söder told the German news agency DPA the return of Oktoberfest following the years of pandemic restrictions marked an occasion of “joy and freedom” while Reiter described the decision to resume the festival as “a good one.”

Despite chilly temperatures and a steady drizzle, thousands of people — many attired in traditional German lederhosen and dirndl dresses — stormed toward the beer tents as the doors were opened at 9 a.m., according to public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk.

The festival includes around 40 tents capable of seating 120,000 festival-goers. Nearly 200 rides and other “amusements” are also on tap, including the new “Circus Circus” ride and dozens of stalls offering items ranging from fish rolls and gingerbread hearts to souvenir mugs.

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