Oktoberfest: a festival synonymous with beer and the beginning of fall. But there’s more to this ski town favorite than meets the eye. Delve into the history of why Oktoberfest is held in September, why every mountain town celebrates this annual fete, and learn about how the original Oktoberfest didn’t even have beer!
The Oktoberfest we’ve come to know and love actually began as a celebration of a marriage. In 1810 in Munich, where Oktoberfest continues to be held, there were festivities to celebrate the marriage of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. They enjoyed the festivities so much, they started making it an annual event. The over 200-year-old event has grown to become the largest annual festival in the world with millions drawn to Munich to celebrate for 16 days in late September.
As the years went by, the Oktoberfest celebrations continued to change. The festival was moved to September to allow for better weather conditions, when patrons could enjoy beer gardens or strolling the fields into the night. In 1818, eight years after the first Oktoberfest, food booths and beer along with them, were introduced, marking a historic occasion for this now beer-focused event. In 1892, beer began to be served in glass mugs or the steins which we have come to know and love.
Over time, the event became so popular in Munich that other cities, countries, and continents began to participate in the event. German immigrants, drawn to the mountains of American resort towns, ensured that festive Oktoberfests would become an integral part of many mountain towns like Breckenridge, Snowbird, and of course, Sun Valley.
Sun Valley’s Oktoberfest
The event started after the now-defunct Harvest Festival ended, giving locals an excuse to party and welcome the start of fall (and because every mountain town should have Oktoberfest!) This event is more than just an excuse to get day drunk in town square with all your friends, it’s an opportunity to see live music; play beer garden games like beer pong, cornhole and the famous Hammerschlagen; try the photo booth or chicken bingo; participate in the hourly Masskrustemmen (Stein hoisting) contest; get competitive in the beer Olympics; eat hot dogs and bratwurst; and, new this year, see the end of the Sun Valley Half Marathon.
The event is obviously a great chance to try Sawtooth Brewery’s fall beers, including the addition of a German Hopped Pale Ale this year for the first time. After choosing your size of drinking vessel (pint, stein, or boot), patrons have their choice of beers: Oktoberfest!, Cold Springs Pilsner, Queen’s Kolsch, Free Solo Heull Melon Single Hop Pale Ale, Harvest Festival Bock, Phantom Hill Swarzbier, and Smokey the Lager. A Long Drop Semi-Dry Cider is available for those that are gluten-free and draft root beer is available for those under 21.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20
- Beer Garden open 4pm-10pm!
- 4pm | Tapping of the Firkin by Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw
- 5pm | Live Music
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21
- 9am | Sun Valley 1/2 Marathon starts at the Wood River YMCA – finishes at Town Square
- 11am – 10pm | Beer Garden open
- 1pm | Live music
- 3pm | Beer Olympics
- 5:30pm | Live music