Germany’s Oktoberfest kicks off in traditional style

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Germany’s annual beer-drinking and sausage-eating Oktoberfest kicked off in traditional style with Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter dressed in traditional Bavarian lederhosen breaking open the first keg at noon (1000 GMT) Saturday.

Reiter needed just two blows to get the beer flowing before handing the first litre jug to Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer. Last year, the mayor needed four strikes with his large mallet.

Within 80 minutes the first visitor was being treated for alcohol poisoning by paramedics from the Bavarian Red Cross. Security officials had seen the 50-year-old man collapsing unconscious in front of one of the large tents.

Fireworks marked the start of the festival, which dates back to 1810.

Reiter, a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), handed the first foaming tankard to Seehofer of the rival Christian Social Union (CSU) with the words “O’zapft is!” signifying in Bavarian dialect that the first keg has been breached,

Entrance to the overflowing tents on the “Wiesn” – as the venue is known – had been closed off well before the official start, with some beer enthusiasts queuing from well before dawn, even though the first beer could only be served at noon.

A Mass – as the litre tankards are known – cost more than 10 euros (11.50 dollars) this year. The Oktoberfest is expected to draw 6 million visitors over its 16 days.

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