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Coronavirus-wary Bavarians kick off toned-down Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest celebrations got underway Saturday in Munich with the traditional tapping of a keg and the cry of “O'zapft is!” — “It's tapped!” — but this year's festival is very non-traditional and highly regulated due to coronavirus concerns.

The official Oktoberfest has been cancelled, so there's no huge tents full of people or hundreds of stands selling food. Instead, 50 of the southern German city's beer halls and other establishments are hosting their own, smaller parties that follow guidelines on mask wearing, social distancing and other restrictions.

Former Mayor Christian Ude got the party started, hammering a tap into a 20 liter (5 gallon) keg — a tenth of the size of the Oktoberfest norm — at the Schillerbraeu beer hall while dressed in Bavarian lederhosen leather pants and wearing a protective mask.

An oversized heart was formed from beer benches on the former parade ground of the Luitpold Barracks, in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Sept.19, 2020. In the middle are brewery carriages and guests of the organizer. The event was organized by the Munich Breweries Association because the Oktoberfest 2020 was cancelled due to the Corona pandemic. (Peter Kneffeldpa via AP)

Meantime, police patrolled the regular festival grounds to make sure no spontaneous parties broke out.

The loss of Oktoberfest is a huge hit for the Bavarian city, which saw 6.3 million guests flood in last year for the festival's 186th year. They were served 7.3 million liters (about 15.5 million pints) of beer over 16 days and consumed 124 oxen, among other traditional foods.

This year's toned-down celebrations run through Oct. 4.

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