Nearly 200 years ago, Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12. They decided to hold the wedding in a picturesque field outside the city gates of Munich. Being the magnanimous royals they were, they also chose to turn the wedding into a grand public celebration, so that even the lowly serfs could raise a measure of beer. The 16-day festival concluded with horseraces before the newly married couple, and everyone had such a grand time that they decided to do it again the next year. And the year after. And the one after that, ad infinitum. And thus the tradition of Oktoberfest was born.
Although it was 193 years ago, this year marks only the 170th Oktoberfest. Among other reasons, one year was canceled due to a cholera epidemic, and there was also a 12-year stint throughout the 1930s and 1940s when Germany had things other than drinking beer on its mind. But this year will continue the tradition as normal, and if it's like every other year, a record will be set for beer consumption. Nearly 6 million liters of beer are consumed at modern Munich Oktoberfests.
Here in South Florida, we're not exactly known for our large population of Teutonic immigrants. But we do love a good party. Whether it's Mardi Gras, Carnavale, or any other festival celebrated anywhere in the world that involves large quantities of drinking and dancing, chances are South Florida has appropriated the event for its own debauched purposes. So where's a South Floridian looking for some oompah-band fun supposed to go? Well, our bet would be the Old Heidelberg restaurant, which made New Times' Best Of issue this year as Best German Restaurant.
The Old Heidelberg
900 SW 24th St. (State Rd. 84), Fort Lauderdale
For reservations or more information, call 954-463-6747
Of course, every local German restaurant will be having some sort of Oktoberfest celebration throughout the course of the next month and a half. Not doing so should be reason to revoke their liquor licenses. It'd be like an Irish bar not having a big bash on Saint Pat's Day. Or maybe not. The Germans may like a good beer, but nobody does inebriation like the Irish. But that's neither here nor there.
Old Heidelberg kicks off its Oktoberfest celebrations Friday with a grand opening featuring Bob Houston and the Ukrainian Dancers. Yes, yes, we know they're Ukrainian, but they'll be performing traditional German dances, so don't get your lederhosen in a bind.
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Each weekend, Old Heidelberg throws in more German dancers, polka performances, and concerts by Ingo the One-Man Band. Can't wait. On October 10, everyone gets an apple schnapps after dinner; the same applies on October 18, only with Jägermeister. The festivities wrap up on Wednesday, October 29, as they began, with the Ukrainian Dancers doing the German dance for you.