“It’s a panic,” remarked Michael Bannister, a distinguished gentleman visiting from Cambridge, England. “The thing is they all know the songs.” The crowd — some ten thousand strong — sang along with various German tunes but the real gusto was reserved for intentional hits. They belted the chorus from “Hey Jude” so loud the rafters seemed to shake. People inside the Paulaner tent danced in place for hours and did all the right moves from “YMCA.” Moreover, songs like “Sweet Caroline, “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Country Road” brought the crowd into frenzy. And you’ve never heard the song “Tequila” until hearing it on tuba and accordion! “There is so much energy here,” said Jo Wegstein from Fremont, California, visiting Germany on biotech business.
The logistics of Oktoberfest are impressive, and large festival or event planners might consider studying their methods. The beer logistics alone are amazing. For instance…
- The Paulaner Brewery, the largest in Munich begins making Oktoberfest beer in late July and delivers about 3,000,000 liters during Oktoberfest. That’s a lot of beer, consumed one liter a time. And Paulaner is just one brewery out of 12 functioning at the annual event.
- Paulaner brings its beer from the brewery to its Oktoberfest tent in huge tanker trucks able to transport 270 hectoliters at a time from midnight until right before the tents open in the morning.
- The brew is connected directly from the tankers to the beer taps using a sophisticated, patented system.
- Munich-area breweries, hospitality vendors and politicians all vie for tent space, which is highly coveted and incredibly lucrative. A tent owner or brewery can be kicked out of Oktoberfest if there are problems — and they’ll never be allowed to return.
Particularly now — the last few days of Oktoberfest — the brewery tents are usually entirely packed with attendees who’ve reserved tables months in advance.
%Gallery-7107%The Spaten tent was packed, the doors shut tight, and only those with a wristband or VIP access were allowed to enter. There are also biergartens outside, but alas, also full. I ambled over to the nearby Paulaner tent and was fortunately able to jostle and push my way in, but every seat or bench was taken. Still, I was inside and able to watch the action. However, the servers were only serving within reserved designated areas.
Eventually I started chatting with a nice young guy wearing a traditional red and white checked shirt, and he invited me over to meet his little group. Instantly I was “in,” and one of the family. Very friendly, the people at this table included his mother Monica and her husband Mark, plus a few friends and relatives. Her friend Sandy said she was with, “My man, my ex-man, my son and his girlfriend, and my sister.”
Another couple, Rolf and wife Shannina, originally from Romania, rounded out the group. These folks were accommodating and friendly and of course, everyone was enjoying the fresh Paulaner Oktoberfest brew. Dressed in traditional Oktoberfest garb, Rolf was very proud of his custom-made lederhosen, which cost 600 Euro and took six months to deliver. “They are from Stangassinger,” he said proudly. “The best.”
Yes, his lederhosen looked very nice, not that I am up on the nuances of this product. Apparently, every Bavarian man should buy a good pair, which may last a lifetime though fitting into them years from now may be another story. At one point, everyone stood and sang out as the band played a rousing rendition of “New York.” I found out that Monica’s son Danny, who brought me to the table, was only 14 years old. He looked much older. His mother said that he’d been very good this year and thought it best that he would drink under her supervision. She allowed him to drink one big beer. I saw him drink at least two.
Bob Ecker is a Napa, California based travel writer/photographer providing worldwide magazines and newspapers with compelling travel, hospitality, wine, culinary, skiing, film and innovative feature content. He is constantly on the go, traveling the world, unearthing new stories and uncorking emerging regions. He is current Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) member and former President of the Bay Area Travel Writers (BATW).