Gesundheit! The Bavarian beer festival is normally the highlight of year for southern Germany, when famous folk to dust off their lederhosen to sing lieder and drink German beer.
Munich normally attracts over six million international visitors in September, who drink 6.9 million litres of beer. Last year those sighted raising a glass at the festival included Usain Bolt, Apple billionaire Tim Cook and Austrian expatriate Arnold Schwartzernegger. However, at this year's 'tapping of the keg' the expectations are for a more sober affair.
Oktoberfest celebrations got underway Saturday in Munich with the traditional tapping of a keg and the cry of "O'zapft is!" — "It's tapped!" — but this year's festival is very non-traditional and highly regulated due to coronavirus concerns.
The official Oktoberfest has been cancelled, so there's no huge tents full of people or hundreds of stands selling food. Instead, 50 of the southern German city's beer halls and other establishments are hosting their own, smaller parties that follow guidelines on mask wearing, social distancing and other restrictions.
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Former Mayor Christian Ude got the party started, hammering a tap into a 20 litre keg — a tenth of the size of the Oktoberfest norm — at the Schillerbraeu beer hall while dressed in Bavarian lederhosen leather pants and wearing a protective mask.
Meantime, police patrolled the regular festival grounds to make sure no spontaneous parties broke out.
The loss of Oktoberfest is a huge hit for the Bavarian city, which saw 6.3 million guests flood in last year for the festival's 186th year. They were served 7.3 million litres (or 5 million pints) of beer over 16 days and consumed 124 oxen, among other traditional foods.
This year's toned-down celebrations run through Oct. 4.