One of the longest running fairs in the world is the Oktoberfest in Munich, a yearly celebration of the harvest season where food, drink and music are everywhere along with the latest and greatest rides from the world's ride manufacturers. Many amusement parks and theme parks took on the tradition in the United States as a way to boost attendance in the fall.
One of the park's first efforts to extend the
season beyond the busy summer months was the annual Oktoberfest celebration. Park management visited
the Munich Oktoberfest to research rides as well as get ideas for Great
Adventure and the idea of holding an Oktoberfest was born.
To hold this celebration as well as other events during the year, the Garden of Eatin' area (now Old Country Picnic Grove) was enhanced to become a location for events and not simply a catering area. For Oktoberfest's first year an authentic Festhalle was imported from Germany and setup as part of the Garden.
|Performers dressed in traditional German costumes were found throughout the festival area, leading the singing of the traditional Oktoberfest songs and helping to create an authentic atmosphere.
|The Oktoberfest at
Six Flags Great Adventure kicked off on September 20, 1980, the same day
that Oktoberfest kicked off in Germany. To officially start the
festivities a procession ran through the park to the Garden of Eatin'
led by a traditional wagon pulled by two Clydesdales.
Even the event's creator at Great Adventure, park president Larry Cochran, dressed in authentic German garb and participated in the kick-off of the celebration.
|The wagon was ridden by "Miss Oktoberfest 1980" along with other costumed performers. The small parade included a variety of vehicles and even the official mascot of the Oktoberfest, a body puppet named Fritz.
|The Harowgate Mummer String Band marched in the procession, bringing music and their colorful costumes to the park.
All of Great Adventure's show performers marched in costume as part of the parade, winding from the Dream Street tents, down Dream Street, and through the park to the Garden of Eatin'.
|Of course no Oktoberfest would be complete without beer, so the park's supplier of beer brought out a truck shaped like a six pack of Budweiser along with the advertising mascot "Budman".
One of the more unique features of the Oktoberfest was the "World's Largest Pretzel" baked on site at a barbeque pit. The giant pretzel was put on display for the length of the festivities (no word if anyone actually ate any of it).
|The true star of the 1980 Oktoberfest was the Festhalle which was colorful and welcoming, seating 1500 guests at a time. The Festhalle was home to the bands and dancers providing entertainment to the crowds of diners throughout the day.
|Click the placard
on the right
to hear a radio
for Oktober Fest.
After a six season hiatus from 1983 to 1988,
Oktoberfest was reintroduced in the autumn of 1989.
For the next five seasons, Oktoberfest added new features and increased the numbers of entertainers as the event become more popular.
The park was running a small Halloween themed event at the time as well, which was limited to the last two weeks of the season, and had nowhere near the level of decorating and efforts that were put into it as Oktoberfest.
traditional food, drink and music, other attractions of the celebration
included crafters, vendors and even a petting zoo.
After the three years of Oktoberfest from 1980 through 1982 and the event's temporary discontinuation, its return from 1989 through 1992 was meant to once again rebuild attendance with additional fall events.
|The late 80's version of Oktoberfest was the only place at the time where alcohol was permitted in the park after management discontinued beer sales as part of them trying to improve their family image.
|The decorations for
Oktoberfest were the start of the elaborate decor throughout the
park that have become a trademark of Fright Fest in the years since.
During the seasons that offered Oktoberfest prior to a Halloween promotion, the decorations from the German festival were repositioned into the theme park after Oktoberfest completed its run.
|Each season of Oktoberfest brought new entertainment. The acts ran the gamut from traditional German bands, to yodelers, to bell ringers and of course singers and dancers.
|With the dawn of the 1990's and changes in park management and ownership, Oktoberfest was seen as an important part of the park's season and additional investments were made for props and decorations for the event as well as for the Garden of Eatin' area as a whole. With Time Warner's acquisition of Six Flags, creating cohesive themes was made a priority and Oktoberfest costumes were even made for Bugs Bunny and Sylvester.
While Oktoberfest was a popular event, the park's Halloweekends and later Fright Fest events were proving to be huge successes and the budget for Oktoberfest was put into expanding the Halloween offerings instead of continuing Oktoberfest.
|Special Oktoberfest souvenir pins were available at the event.