The world's largest beer festival and funfair began in 1810, when Crown Prince Ludwig (who later became King Ludwig) married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildbughausen. The citizens of Munich were invited to join in with the celebrations held on the fields in front of the city gates. The event closed with horse races which were repeated again the next year - and so began Oktoberfest. The dates were moved slightly in the hope of better weather for the festival, which has only been cancelled twenty four times in its two-hundred year history: for cholera epidemics and wars.
The popularity of Oktoberfest is the reason we often stereotype Germans as wearing the Sennerhut, lederhosen or dirndl dresses. It has become a massive, world famous event with people visiting from across the globe. Each year, 15% of the six million visitors come from outside of Germany. Many cities have now started their own, copy-cat "Oktoberfest" events; though these are much smaller, localised affairs and cannot hold a candle to the original and best!