IMAGE: Oktoberfest opens in Munich
Jan Pitman  /  AP
Guests cheer as they hold beer mugs during the opening ceremony of the Oktoberfest beer festival in Munich on Saturday.
updated 9/18/2004 1:14:20 PM ET 2004-09-18T17:14:20

With the traditional cry of “O’zapft is!” — “It’s tapped!” — Munich’s mayor cracked a barrel of Bavarian beer at noon Saturday, opening the southern city’s 171st Oktoberfest festival for a crowd of some 500,000.

Dressed in Bavarian knee-length leather pants, or lederhosen, Christian Ude wished the crowd a “peaceful Oktoberfest” before a thundering 12-gun salute signaled the 16-day festival’s opening.

Bavarian Gov. Edmund Stoiber was given the first mug and took an obligatory swig before switching to an alcohol-free version.

The world’s biggest beer-drinking festival is always a huge tourist draw, and some 6 million visitors from around the world are expected to crawl Munich’s sprawling Theresienwiese festival grounds this year to fill the beer tents and hit the pretzel and sausage stands.

The main tent’s 6,000 seats filled quickly Saturday, and others waited for hours before the event’s start to ensure a table at one of the other 14 tents’ 100,000 seats to sing along with the polka bands.

Beer is a bit pricier this year, with the most expensive one-liter mug costing $8.65, up from $8.28. A mug of the most common alternative drink, mineral water, is jumping 25 cents to $6.75.

Last year, the festival attracted some 6.3 million people who drank 6.1 million liter mugs of beer.

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