It's a darned good thing Bavaria's King Joseph Maximilian wasn't satisfied with just a small reception when he wed Princess Theresa of Saxony in 1810. Enthralled by his new bride, Maximilian decided to invite all of Munich to the party. Originally, courtiers planned a simple horse race, but given Bavarians' party-hearty nature the festivities soon morphed into a giant beer-drinking orgy, and the Oktoberfest was born. Now, almost two centuries later, the fall fete is a Munich institution, drawing some 6 million visitors who come to see Bavarian folk dancing and decorated floats, chow down on more than 1,500 different types of sausage, and consume barrel after barrel of beer -- roughly 1.4 million gallons are sold during the 16-day event. Oktoberfests have also popped up in almost every U.S. city with a sizable German population (Cincinnati, Chicago, Milwaukee) as well as in many international towns -- Blumenau, Brazil's October party, is an annual event almost as raucous and vast as Munich's.
Our city's Oktoberfest by the Bay can't boast a crowd of millions (or even fall foliage), but for brew-guzzling, wurst-noshing German culture fanciers, the local blowout is the best place in town to get your oompah on, with free-flowing beer, Teutonic food, sprightly music and dancing, and German arts and crafts. The party starts at 5 p.m. on Thursday (and continues through Sunday) at Fort Mason's Festival Pavilion, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is free-$12; call (888) 746-7522 or visit www.oktoberfestbythebay.com. -- Joyce Slaton
Artists Desire You
Ever have eating contests in your family? You know, where the kids try to out-eat each other and wind up holding their bellies in giggly pain? Well, your brain might feel like those kids' stomachs after Open Studios, the annual smorgasbord of hundreds of artists' work spaces, all prettied up and ready for visitors. The weekend event highlights everything from oil paintings to wearable art, with a gallery show acting as a sort of hors d'oeuvre plate, featuring one piece from each participating artist. The exhibition is at SomArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan (at Eighth Street), S.F. Studios are also open next weekend. Admission is free; call 262-0282 or visit www.sfopenstudios.com for a map. -- Hiya Swanhuyser
Was Mary Ellen "Mammy" Pleasant a voodoo practitioner and madam whose dark rituals figured largely in some of 19th-century San Francisco's most notorious society murder cases? Or was she a courageous link in the Underground Railroad who got a bad rap from those who feared a powerful African-American woman unafraid to buck the system during the waning years of slavery? Professor Lynn Hudson, author of a recent book on the local legend, sheds some light on the matter with "The Making of Mammy Pleasant,"a slide show and lecture starting at 2 p.m. at the Main Library, 100 Larkin (at Grove), S.F. Admission is free; call 557-4400 or visit www.sfpl.org. -- Joyce Slaton
Do you consider yourself too dim to master the difficult strategy of chess? Or do you squirm too much to concentrate on your next move? Well, instead of using your mind to play the game, use your body -- in artist Sharilyn Neidhardt's Human Game of Chess. As two expert players battle it out, you transform into their chess pieces, using the streets of San Francisco as your gigantic chessboard. Be sure to bring a cell phone, because that's how you're contacted and told where to move next. Costumes are strongly encouraged. The match begins at noon in Dolores Park, Dolores between 18th and 20th streets, S.F. Admission is free; visit http://mysite.verizon.net/johnnieutah/chess/sfchessmain.html. -- Brock Keeling