It’s by far the biggest beer festival in the world and potentially one of the most explosive events of the year: mix millions of visitors with a late summer heatwave and add 7,000,000 liters of beer, served in solid, chunky 1-liter Maß glasses and you’ve got the Oktoberfest.
Taking place on OnPR’s doorstep in Munich, the annual event amazes first-time and repeat visitors alike by how peaceful it is: despite the huge volumes of strong beer sloshing around (one third of the annual production from Munich’s five breweries is consumed in just 17 days), and the zeal with which many of its visitors indulge themselves, there are remarkably few fights and fewer injuries.
It’s all about perception management by a largely invisible team made up of police (more on this later) plus specialist private security. Drink yourself silly – that’s fine. Dance on the tables – go ahead. Stumble around in a stupor – it’s an everyday occurrence and you’ll hardly get a second glance. Perhaps a sudden realization that you are going to throw up? Well, get on down to any of the ample WC facilities, many have sinks dedicated for just that purpose.
But if those beer goggles lead to trying to get frisky with an unwilling member of the opposite sex then the enforcers will soon appear. Wander out of a tent or beer garden with a glass half-empty and you’ll be relieved of your glass faster than you can say ‘ein Prosit’ (cheers). And throwing a punch is the fastest way you’ll ever experience getting out of a tent holding 1,000 or more.
Just as the event draws visitors from around the world, so the job of keeping it peaceful is also shared – with the legendary Italian weekend in the middle even co-policed by the Carabinieri.
Overall, it boils down to good perception management. Come along to eat, drink and be extremely merry. But go beyond that and you’ll soon have what’s probably going to be a perspective-altering experience.
And that’s why the glasses aren’t plastic …