America's Largest Oktoberfest Returns This Weekend

September 21, 2018

Oktoberfest Zinzinnati

It’s a Cincinnati tradition, or a Zinzinnati, tradition that is. That’s right, the annual Oktoberfest Zinzinnati returns to downtown this weekend. This year’s event will be held on 2nd and 3rd Streets, between Elm and Walnut.

The original Oktoberfest is held in Munich, Germany, also this weekend, and dates back to 1810. That’s when Kronprinz Ludwig, later King Ludwig I, married the lovely Therese Charlotte Luise of Saxony-Hildburghausen. This is the same King Ludwig I, by the way, for whom the Genius of Water, part of Tyler Davidson Fountain in Downtown Cincinnati, was originally commissioned.

After the royal wedding, the townsfolk in Munich were invited to celebrate the happy couple, which they were more than happy to do. It was such a blast, it was decided that such a celebration would be held every year, with more and more elements, such as agricultural displays and contests, game booths, and entertainment being added at successive Oktoberfests.

Cincinnati’s current Oktoberfest began in 1976 and is now the nation’s largest as well as  the world’s second largest, with nearly 3 dozen vendors, loads of entertainment, and well over half a million visitors. The city’s tradition of German food and drink, particularly beer, make it the best location in the U.S. for such an event. Apologies to Milwaukee, who also have one. Indeed, there at least 100 such celebrations in the U.S., as well as celebrations in over a dozen countries.

Many of these Oktoberfests take place in September which has been the source of some confusion over the years. The first Oktoberfest was properly held in October, but in successive years, the celebration’s start was pushed up to September to take advantage of the still warm weather, running through early October. The name Oktoberfest stuck, though, because, Septemberfest doesn’t sound quite as catchy.

Why ours is called Oktoberfest “Zinzinnati,” is a mystery to some too. Rich Walburg, director of communications for the Cincinnati Regional Chamber USA, reckons it came from an old Burger Beer ad which asked the question, “vas you ever in Zinzinnati?” To be certain, though, he referred us to Dr. Don Heinrich Tolzmann, a recognized expert in German-American studies who explained, simply, “that is the German pronunciation of Cincinnati.”

Speaking of our European cousins, this past spring, German newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung Mainz called Oktoberfest Zinzinnati America’s Oktoberfest. The paper also suggested places and points of interest for its readers to visit should they ever find themselves in the Queen City, including several of our local breweries.

Friend of Cincy Shirts, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden Director, Thane Maynard will be the grand marshal of the Oktoberfest parade. As such, of course, he will lead the world’s largest chicken dance on Sunday.

Hours for this year’s Oktoberfest are:

Friday 5-11 p.m.
Saturday 11 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.

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