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Backpack ban? Oktoberfest rethinks security

July 28, 2016

After a spate of violence in Bavaria, Oktoberfest organizers are out to make the annual beer celebration as safe as possible. The world-famous festival will be smaller than usual, with only few new Features introduced.

Police at Oktoberfest, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Hörhager
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Hörhager

Security is the highest priority at Munich's Oktoberfest this year, organizers said on Thursday - just days after several incidences of violence had hit the state of Bavaria.

"It's about having maximum impact," said Oktoberfest head and deputy mayor of Munich Josef Schmid. Counting some six million visitors each year, the event is one of the largest folk festivals in the world.

Schmid said that precise security measures still needed to be worked out for the event, which runs from September through October 3. Suggested changes include a backpack ban and mobile fences surrounding the Oktoberfest grounds.

Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter told local Bavarian broadcaster BR earlier this week that a backpack ban would be considered.

Security check at Oktoberfest 2015, Copyright: Getty Images/J. Simon
Backpacks could be banned this yearImage: Getty Images/J. Simon

"The Oktoberfest is not so expensive that people need to bring a backpack to carry their money," pointed out Toni Roiderer, a spokesman for the Oktoberfest tent owners. Tent owners echoed his opinion, saying that backpacks just get in the way anyway.

Josef Schmid also made it clear that he didn't want to sacrifice the festive atmosphere at Oktoberfest. "We have a huge festival that we don't want to be spoiled. I hope that people come. It would be wrong to withdraw and stop celebrating. That's what the terrorists want," he told the local newspaper "Münchner Merkur."

Oktoberfest smaller than usual

During the first week of Oktoberfest, a Bavarian agricultural festival will also be taking place on a portion of the Theresienwiese, where the annual beer celebration is held. That means Oktoberfest will be a bit smaller this year than it normally is.

Typically, there are a few new rides announced to be featured at the fairgrounds each year, but 2016 will be an exception. Updates have been made, however, to the food service. Among other changes, a new yogurt stand will offer all varieties of the stuff - including vegan versions made with soy milk.

The price of beer rises slightly every year, and this year is no different. The standard one-liter mugs will go for between 10.40 and 10.70 euros ($11.44 - 11.77). According to the organizers, that represents a 3.11 percent increase over last year's beer prizes. Festival-goers who want to pace themselves with a non-alcoholic beverage between beers won't save much, with soft drink prices ranging from 8.27 to 9.27 euros.

Visitors at Oktoberfest, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Hörhager
Organizers hope the spirit of Oktoberfest remains, despite heightened security measuresImage: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Hörhager

It remains to be seen whether the recent series of attacks in Bavaria will keep visitors away from Oktoberfest this year. On July 18, a 17-year-old refugee injured several people on a commuter train near Würzburg with a knife. Then, on July 22, an 18-year-old killed nine people, mainly minors, as well as himself in a shooting spree in Munich. And on July 24, a suicide bomber injured 15 people near Ansbach, also in Bavaria.

Oktoberfest boss Josef Schmid says that in any case "security is the first priority."

kbm/ ss(dpa, AFP)