In the Terschelling dialect, Oerol means "everywhere" or literally "overall" in the sense of covering the entire land (oeral in standard Frisian). Oerol takes its name from an old Terschelling tradition, when for a short time in early spring cattle were allowed to roam freely on the island, grazing on any and all available greenery. The oerol tradition continued until the arrival of paved roads, since cars and bicyclists collided at night with sleeping cattle; it was finally ended during the German occupation of the island in World War II.
The premise of the festival is to use the entire island as a stage, although two primary stages (Groene Strand and Westerkeyn) are set up. Beaches, woods, dunes and other landscapes can function as performance spaces, and shows have also taken place in farm sheds, boathouses and an army bunker. Tickets are sold in the form of "passports" allowing access to the island for part or all of the week, and then tickets are available for the individual performances. Street theatre acts, art, and podium musical performances are free during the festival. Over 50,000 people visited the island and some 95,000 tickets were sold for the 2007 festival. The 2009 Oerol Festival took place from June 12-21, and in 2010, the Oerol Festival took place from June 11-20. In 2011, the Festival took place from June 17-27. The 2012 dates are June 15-24.