If you went downtown Cincinnati during the third weekend of September, you couldn’t drive on Second and Third streets between Walnut and Elm. The reason: Zinzinnati Oktoberfest has taken over. The biggest authentic festival outside of Munich, Germany is an annual event in Cincinnati, Ohio every September. Many reasons for this occasion stem from the unique German culture and heritage in our area that date back to the early 19th century.
This German open-air festival originated in 1810 when Prince Ludwig I had a marriage celebration that evolved into a two-week long fair after its reoccurrence in 1812. The annual fair that happens now typically stretches from the second to last Saturday in September to the first Sunday in October. This year in Munich, it is September 17 through October 3.
One of the reasons that Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest is the second largest in the world is the strong German history in the area. German immigrants came over in the 19th century and built the area that is currently known as Over-the-Rhine. The immigrants created a “German Triangle” consisting of St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee. With Cincinnati being the most populous of the three, it became the hub of German culture in America. The machine and meatpacking industries were two of the biggest trades of the Germans in Cincinnati.
Even though the German festival is based on the one in Munich, there are many special quirks that make Zinzinnati Oktoberfest special and unique. To start off the weekend, 100 dachshunds are dressed in hot dog bun costumes and race about 75 feet to their owners in front of the enthusiastic crowd. More highlighted events that are hosted include the World Brat Eating Competition and Sam Adams Stein Hoisting Competition, which both take place on the second day of the event. Along with all the festivities, there is live music all weekend and souvenirs are available at tents on Second and Third streets.
There is another event high schoolers can take part in: the Hudepohl 14k/7k Brewery Run is held on Saturday morning at 8:00am. Even on an overcast day, over 3,400 people participated in the race. “The race that thinks it’s a party” offers free cheese coneys from Skyline for everyone who runs/walks. There is also live music under the Überdome, located on the lawn of the Moerlein House.
To end the festivities is the traditional Chicken Dance in Fountain Square. The tradition of the Chicken Dance started when the prince of Bavaria attended the festival in Cincinnati in 1994. Over 48,000 people helped set the world record for the largest group dance and held the record for two years in the Guinness Book of Records. Every year since, a Grand Marshal is appointed to lead the dance and attempt to set the record again. In recent years the leaders have been Ken Anderson, Drew and Nick Lachey, among many others. This year, the FC Cincinnati team led the dance from the main stage.
Looking past the food and celebrations, a deep history, rich culture, and valuable heritage contribute to the authenticity of one of the biggest events in Cincinnati.
*German for Pretzels