I’ve been to a traditional “Schützenfest” in Rommerskirchen-Eckum, in the near of Neuss, last week, and altho it has been a great experience I’m glad that it is over now, because it also was very tiring.
“Schützenfest” is an old tradition present in most parts of Germany. I could not find a proper translation for the term, only things like “shooting match” which only describes a small fraction of what Schützenfest really is.
Let me try to explain you what this is all about:
Schützenfest is being held by Schützenvereins. A Schützenverein is roughly a shooting club where you learn to shoot with a rifle. But even more important than learning how to fire a rifle is probably the social activities associated with a Schützenverein. You meet to drink a beer, make trips, and once in a year there is a big feast called Schützenfest. This is where they target a wooden eagle, and he who is lucky (or unlucky?) enough to make the eagle fall down becomes the new Schützenkönig (king of the shooters.)
The Schützenkönig usually chooses his wife or girlfriend as his queen, and together they invite friends to their “royal household.” During Schützenfest, there are several magnificent parades headed by the royal couple. The shooters wear uniforms, often green, and the ladies wear evening dresses. The parades mostly end at the huge feast tent, where people spend the rest of the evening, singing, dancing to traditional folk music, drinking lots of beer, etc.
I hope this gives you a rough idea about what Schützenfest is.
We’ve spent some very nice days, the weather was beautiful (great for the parades), the feast was great (nice live music and entertainment,) the dinners were excellent, but it was also very tiring because we got little sleep, the parades were a real challenge to our feet, and also the heat and the bad (smoky) air in the feast tent were troublesome.
BTW, before I forget, here is a link to the Schützenverein that arranged the feast. You will find some pictures about the feast there.