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It has been celebrated for 210 years and is a major event in the world tourism calendar. But this year, the beer taps at Germany's Oktoberfest, the world's largest beer festival, are turning off thanks to virus fears. Bavarian leaders took the hard call recently.
The annual event takes place in the Bavarian capital Munich and attracts around 6 million visitors.
According to the festival’s website, Munich's Mayor Dieter Reiter along with Bavarian State Chancellery, Minister President Markus Söder, “agreed that the risk is simply too high."
The festival was supposed to take place from September 19 to October 4, 2020. However, according to Reiter, Oktoberfest "simply cannot exist in these times”.
Head of Oktoberfest, Clemens Baumgärtner also regretted the cancellation of Oktoberfest 2020: "A decision that saddens us all: It affects me, deeply and personally. A festival for millions, which stands for Munich, for the joy of life, for Bavaria, cannot take place.”
"It is the right decision because—at least for the time being—we cannot ensure that we have a Wiesn that only gives pleasure to everyone, but does not pose any danger,” he added.
Prioritising people’s health, Reiter said, "Not to let it happen is a bitter pill to swallow."
The festival, colloquially known as Wiesn, is a 16-18 day celebration, which first took place in 1810 to celebrate the wedding of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig with Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The two-centuries-old festival involves people dressing up in traditional clothes (such as dirndls and lederhosen) and attending cultural parades, and dancing to traditional Bavarian music. And, of course, drinking beer.
This isn't the first time that the festival has been cancelled. Earlier pandemics, such as a cholera outbreak in 1854, have shut it down as well. It was last cancelled during World War II.
This cancellation could possibly be a sign of things to come (at least in 2020) for many festivals that involve mass gatherings.
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