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Fewer guests eat more and drink less beer at Munich's Oktoberfest

Attendance slipped at Munich's Oktoberfest as border controls imposed to stem the flow of refugees complicated travel, organizers have said. The world's largest beer party saw hundreds of thousands fewer revelers.

The number of visitors to the beer halls and gardens of Munich's 16-day Oktoberfest plunged by 400,000 people this year, festival organizers said Sunday.

The world's largest beer-drinking party attracted some 5.9 million visitors this year, compared to last year's 6.3 million.

Despite the sober statistics, the city's leaders said the event was still a success.

"Four hundred thousand fewer visitors - but it's still a high-level Oktoberfest," Munich Mayor Josef Schmid said Sunday after the final numbers were counted.

The amount of beer guzzled slumped, too, from last year's 7.7 million liters (2.03 million gallons) to 7.3 million liter this year, the mayor said. The average cost of a signature 1-liter mug of beer (a Maß) was 10.22 euros ($11.46).

But visitors ate more: 114 oxen were eaten as compared to 112 last year, and 50 calves versus 48 in 2014. The number of chickens cooked was not tallied.

A number of reasons have been floated for the lower visitor numbers. Cool, rainy weather may have been part of it.

But almost certainly Germany's rail operator Deutsche Bahn's suspension of key services to and from Austria and Hungary and

the government's September 13 decision to resume border controls

in the midst of an influx of refugees were factors.

Deutschland München Bahnhof Migration Flüchtlinge

Refugees set up camp at Munich's main rail station during the height of the festival

Desperation at Munich's rail station

Local authorities were at pains to keep beer-swilling partygoers and refugees apart,

particularly at Munich's main railway station, where some 20,000 migrants arrived on each of the first two weekends of September.

Germany is projected to receive up to 1 million asylum-seekers this year, five times more than in 2014.

The Oktoberfest dates back 205 years. This year only marked the 182nd anniversary, as the party was canceled during both world wars, two cholera outbreaks, Napoleon's invasion of Bavaria and the economic crisis of the 1920s.

The event was originally held in October as the name suggests to celebrate a royal wedding but was brought forward to take advantage of warmer weather.

jar/sms (AFP, dpa)

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