There are some cities called Leavenworth around: One in Kansas, one in Indiana and one in Washington. In Kansas they have also a Leavenworth-county and the two prisons, a civil and a military one. Because Proxima in her last comment brought it up, I had a look at the Washington-Leavenworth: It grew with the railroad and when it relocated the small community had difficulties. In the sixties they decided to become Bavarian. Later they would have Oktoberfest: And they were saved. Well, I also believed in the healing powers of beer for a long time, but doubt remains. And a high blood pressure. As I learned they started their annual festivity at the end of the 90s – what were they doing for more than thirty years? – and it is said to be one of the biggest and most attended events of this kind besides the Canadian one in Kitchener and Waterloo.
As Proxima put it:
As someone who lives in the real Bavaria, what do you think about this recreation of it in a place far far away? Flattering? Annoying? or just plain silly?
Hell no! People do make something new from old forms – it is an American fest or a Canadian one with European – in this case German – origins and forms, and everytime it stages it is something new. Old form, new content, that slowly but surely changes the (external) form – in a way that is the blueprint for cultural development in any given surroundings, where traditional forms are not totally ignored or skipped. There are not too many really new forms … So it is absolutely not silly to have a Oktoberfest outside Munich. You can have a Greek fest in Franconia with Greek music, food, dance and song – naturally you do not create new Greeks as you do not bake new Germans on the location of the festivity.
The reason I mention this “nation-thing” is rooted in the beginning of the original Oktoberfest, or better it’s later instrumentalization. On the beginning there is a wedding: Prince Ludwig marries Princess Therese on a meadow outside Munich on the 12th of October 1810. Since that time the area is called “Therese’s meadows” (Theresienwiese), or just “die Wies’n” (the meadow). They had a horse race and a large fest for the people. The people liked it. Maybe they already had at the first fest a special beer for this occasion: The “Wies’n-Bier” should have more malt in it and be a little more red and tasty; today it resembles a type that is no longer around, the “Wiener Export” (Vienna-export, Eng Ger), that was made with malt from Vienna. More malt not necessarily means more alcohol. It just “goes” better, has more “gulp” to it. But “Festbier” is made a little stronger too …
The Oktoberfest is a Bavarian fest. The kingdom of Bavaria in 1810 was new and shiny, it still squeaked a little … The Wittelsbach-family became “king” in 1806 courtesy of Napoleon Buonaparte, the first. Before that time they were Herzöge (dukes) of Bavaria, what actually forms the southern part of the modern “Freistaat” (free-state). The northern part is formed from the areas of the once independent dukedoms of Franconia: The bishops of Würzburg, Bamberg and Eichstätt were independent worldly rulers; the cities of Nürnberg, Rothenburg, Dinkelsbühl (and many others) were independent Reichsstädte (cities of the “rike”); sprinkled in between were some independent areas ruled by knights. Maybe independence is a little overstressed here, but there simply was not one bloody king, but minor (bloody) rulers.
All this ended 1803/1806 and Napoleon’s friends, the bastards who betrayed the Reich as one could say, were rewarded and honored – in other words, the prey was divided: New kingdoms emerged, among others, “Bavaria”.
The Wittelsbacher were not dumb, you do not win a new kingdom by sheer stupidity. They very fast understood that there is the need of a new and connecting force of unity, a national consciousness: They created the Bavarian. I exaggerate of course, but I am a Bavarian Volkskundler / ethnologist – my science came into being in the years from 1800 to 1830 out of romantic national spirit; and besides Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (Protestants born in Hassia, later in Berlin) there were people like Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl and others, who willingly propagated this new unified Bavarian nation. The big wedding of 1810 was used for propagating the new unity and in it’s succession fests in the land: In Franconia the fest of 1842 has left a lasting impression. The blueprint for all these following events was the Oktoberfest from 1810.
As I said above: The new Oktoberfests will follow the old form, but there is new content, new symbolism, new life in it. Have a good beer, listen to the music, simply enjoy! The original of 1810 had a special task, served a political purpose. I hope the new fest simply serves the folk.
Besides: Franconians do not yodel.