Helen, Georgia celebrates their annual Oktoberfest. PHOTO: Exploregeorgia.org

Oktoberfest is the largest Volksfest, beer festival and traveling funfair, in the world. It is held every year in Munich, Germany dating back to 1810. The first Oktoberfest comes from King Ludwig’s marriage celebration and the festivities and parties stuck. It is a 16-18 day festival running from September to German Unification day in October. More than six million people from all corners of the earth travel to celebrate the beloved festival. Many other cities across the world try to replicate this event. The festival also includes amusement rides, sidestalls, games, music, dancing and more. Numerous German food favorites are available as well.

A few Oktoberfest traditions are the entry of the restaurateurs and breweries, beer barrel tapping and the costume and riflemen’s parade. The entry of the restaurateurs and breweries started in 1887, when a manager first marched to the festival with his staff. Since then, the parade has changed and in 1935, all the participating breweries took part in the festivities. Next, is beer barrel tapping which is when the Lord Mayor opens the first beer barrel at exactly noon. This marks the opening of Oktoberfest and then twelve gunshots are fired. This signals to the other restaurants to start serving. The last of the major highlights is the costume and riflemen’s parade. In honor of King Ludwig’s marriage in 1835, a costume parade took place and it included 150 different costume groups and upward of around 1,400 people. Now, over 8,000 people participate in the festival.

The cultural celebration highlights dancing the polka and singing to classic German songs. Polka is a classic German dance that has its origins from Czech Republic. Many restaurants around the festival serve different classic German dishes including the Reuben sandwich, spaetzle, goulash, wursts and more.

The Helen, Ga. Oktoberfest recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. It is the longest running Oktoberfest celebration in the United States. The festival takes place within Helen’s Festhalle, a place for all of the town’s festivities. People dress in traditional German attire, such as lederhosen and dirndls, and dance to polka. The festivities and affairs will end on Nov. 7.

September and October weekends are popular in Helen. The cost for admission is $8 on weekdays, $10 on Saturday and free on Sundays. There is always food and drink available for purchase within the festival. During the week, the doors open at 6 p.m. and on the weekends, the doors open at 1 p.m. 

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