Shooting festival

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A shooting festival is a folk festival that is derived from the regular meeting of shooting brotherhoods or shooting clubs. During the festival, the best shooter ( shooting king ) is usually determined in a shooting competition . Some local customs also determine the marksman king through other competitions, such as ring stitching , bird shooting , target shooting or shooting with a bow and arrow.


In the Middle Ages, some cities had to protect themselves from raiding gangs. For this reason, associations were created that a vigilante group were similar. With the law on the military constitution of the cities passed by King Henry I in 924 , these vigilante groups, at least as far as settlements with city ​​rights were concerned, were then sanctioned for the first time and became an official part of city defense . In connection with the exercises and the sampling of the city's poses, celebrations were held, combined with parades. Participants from friendly communities and sometimes also the feudal city leaders were invited to these rifle yards. However, the self-confident character of these citizens' events was not always approved by the authorities. Therefore, regionally very different traditions developed . The military importance of these institutions decreased over the centuries and became insignificant with the establishment of regular troops and garrisons for national defense. The rifle festivals and rifle clubs remained as a local tradition and regional customs.

In contrast to this, rifle festivals in Switzerland's military militia tradition (without a standing army) have largely retained their defensive character. They also played an important role in the cohesion of the various language regions, in particular the federal rifle festivals in the first half of the 19th century. To this day, the military plays an important role with financial aid. Participation in the annual federal field shooting is free. It was founded in particular to improve the marksmanship of the military men. By 1996 every member of the army had to become a member of one of the rifle clubs in Switzerland and complete the “compulsory program”. For the members who have remained since then, tradition, camaraderie and the sporting challenge are in the foreground.

The customs around the Schützenfest are mainly cultivated in Bavaria and Lower Saxony , but also in the Lower Rhine , Middle Rhine and Westphalia (especially in the Sauerland with the umbrella organization Sauerländer Schützenbund and the adjacent Siegen-Wittgenstein ), as well as the Hellwegbörden with rifle parades. The old tradition has been resumed in East Germany since German reunification . The traditions associated with the shooting festivals can be very different from region to region.

The Bremer Schützen- und Volksfest zu Oberneuland (1846, wood engraving illustration from the Illustrirten Zeitung ).

One of these regional traditions is the “flag striking” (a special flag waving ). It symbolizes the shackling of St. Sebastianus , the patron saint of the young shooters. The flag waving and the flag waving are carried out according to fixed rules, which are set out in the Federal Flag Waving Ordinance, so that referees can also evaluate the performances at competitions .

Shooting festivals can last from one to several days and be accompanied by different side programs. They often take place in a ballroom of the local inn or in a specially constructed marquee . In the Sauerland, in the neighboring district of Siegen-Wittgenstein and in the eastern Hellwegbörden (there in particular Soester and Geseker Börde), most places have their own shooting hall, which is used, among other things, for shooting festivals and balls. Many shooting festivals begin with a festive procession, during which the reigning shooting king with his court , is picked up by his club members, marches with music through the town to the shooting range or the marquee or is driven. A fair or a fair is often set up around the marquee .

Shooting festivals in Germany

Historic newspaper advertisement from 1898 for a shooting festival in Germany

Some shooting festivals refer to the so-called free shooting , in which, according to legend, the best shooter could shoot himself free from his taxes for a year . Even if the festivals are still sometimes referred to as free shooting , today there is no tax exemption associated with royal dignity.

The earliest recorded shooting festival on Bavarian soil took place in Munich in 1427. In this "trouser shooting", rifles and crossbows were used to acquire one of the 15 prizes: 15 pairs of trousers. For the city of Würzburg , free shooting with a hand rifle on Saturday, Bartholomäi, August 24, 1480 is documented. 169 shooters took part in this three-day event.

Since the opera Der Freischütz (1821) begins with a rifle festival, all of the later rifle festivals are certainly not the first, but follow a much older tradition.

In Uelzen , the "border reference" is committed every five years ( Schnadegang ). Since the Middle Ages, the riflemen have been checking whether the boundary marks of the urban lands are still in their old place.

When bird shooting is shot on a built wooden bird dummy. The one who fetches the last remains from the bird perch is the shooter king. During eagle shooting (for example at the Ravensburger Rutenfest ), a wooden imperial eagle is shot, whose insignia and feathers can be shot individually; The rifleman here is the rifleman of the orb. There are all kinds of animal motifs at shooting festivals, for example at the historic shooting festival in Biberach an der Riss ( Biberach shooting festival ) a beaver is targeted.

Special shooting festivals

Rifle medal for the 1st German Shooting Festival in Frankfurt am Main in 1862, obverse.

The German Shooting Festival

Since 1862, the federal shooting of the German Rifle Federation took place in large German cities. Before the founding of the German Empire also in Vienna (3rd German Federal Shooting 1868). For the time being, the last federal shooting was in Gotha in 2011 .

Schützenfest Hannover

The Schützenfest Hannover is considered the largest shooting festival in the world. On the approximately 10 hectare Schützenplatz Hannover there are around 220 showmen, including around 40 rides and amusement shops, eight festival tents and event areas with a daily changing program and numerous other catering facilities. The highlight is the 10 km long rifle march that takes place on the first Sunday of the Schützenfest with around 10,000 participants from home and abroad, including riflemen, bands and marching bands, as well as over 40 floats and carriages. It is the longest and largest rifle march in the world. Depending on the weather, 150,000 to 300,000 people visit the rifle march. The supporting program of the Schützenfest includes a. The Bruchmeister commitment, the shooters' celebratory meal, the 6 award ceremonies (municipal shooting days 1–3, municipal cup shooting, regional shooting and people's king's shooting), parrot shooting for everyone, the day of the Lower Saxony shooting clubs with over 90 shooting clubs with 1,800 participants from all over Lower Saxony, the allotment gardening day with cup shooting, as well as the torchlight procession with the subsequent tattoo. Over 1 million people visit the 10-day shooting festival every year. In addition, there are 63 shooting clubs and associations in Hanover. In 1955 Hanover was given the official honorary title of "German shooting town".

Neuss citizens' shooting festival

The Neusser Bürger-Schützenfest is the shooting festival of the city of Neuss am Rhein . It is held annually on the last weekend in August.

With more than 7700 marching riflemen and musicians (approx. 1600 musicians) it is smaller than the Schützenfest Hannover , but is considered the world's largest rifle festival, which is organized by a single rifle club and in which no guest trains from other cities take part. In 2018, the record number of over 7,700 marchers was reached (2015: over 7,500, 2012 over 7200 participants). The Schützenfest with its royal parade, pageants, the royal shooting and numerous accompanying events is a social highlight in Neuss and the surrounding area and attracts up to a million visitors. 2007 was a record year with 1.5 million visitors.

Lohner shooting festival

The rifle club Lohne is the host of the Lohner shooting festival. It is held annually on the second weekend in July. With over 2,800 active shooters in 68 companies, divided into seven battalions, it is the second largest German shooting festival organized by a single shooting club. In addition to the club's own companies, there are more than 20 music bands or bands as well as guest companies.

Shooting festival in Sassenberg

The Sassenberger Schützenfest is the largest shooting festival in Münsterland and always takes place on the second weekend in July.

The organizer is the Bürgererschützenverein Sassenberg, which has over 2100 members, with a population of just 10,000 in the city of Sassenberg . The shooting club is even bigger than the local sports club and is one of the 10 largest shooting clubs in Germany. The highlight of the shooting festival is the big royal parade with over 1000 participants on Monday. In addition to the riflemen, eight music trains, 15 riders and 10 carriages take part in the parade. On the Schützenplatz, bird shooting takes place as a struggle for royal dignity.

Grevenbroich shooting festival

The shooting festival in Grevenbroich takes place annually on the first weekend in September. The fixed program includes the torchlight procession on Saturday evening and the rifle parade on Sunday afternoon. The highlights of the local festival and folk festival are the parade of the riflemen on Breite Straße in the city center, the fairground, including the festival tent, on the Platz der Republik and the morning pint on Monday morning in the Grevenbroich festival tent. The Grevenbroich Shooting Festival is carried out and organized by the Bürgererschützenverein 1849 Grevenbroich. The rifle bivouac in mid-August and the bird shot on the Schützenplatz are sensational side events.

Olper shooting festival

The Olpe Schützenfest always takes place on the third weekend (third Sunday) in July and is organized by the St. Sebastianus Schützenverein Olpe , founded in 1311 .

European shooting festival

Every three years the European Shooting Festival takes place, which is organized by the European Community of Historical Shooting (EGS). Shooters from several nations appear, including Germany , the Netherlands , Belgium , France and Poland .

Around 25,000 shooters took part in the 2003 European Shooting Festival in Vöcklabruck (Upper Austria), about the same number at the 2006 European Shooting Festival in Heeswijk in the Netherlands. The 18th European Shooting Festival took place from August 28th to 30th, 2015 in Peine ( Lower Saxony ). In 2021 the 20th European Shooting Festival will take place in the Belgian city of Deinze .

Shooting festivals in Switzerland

Federal free shooting site in Aarau (1849)
Rifleman in the shooting position at the Federal Rifle Festival in Frauenfeld
Shooting range at the Federal Rifle Festival in Frauenfeld

Swiss rifle festivals are also known as free shooting ( free shooting ). You and the shooting associations play an important role in Swiss political life. Nowadays the national shooting competitions "Federal Shooting Festival" take place every five years. These are major sporting events with a sports festival character. Of the 70,000 visitors to the Swiss Federal Shooting Festival in Frauenfeld in 2005, 50,000 took part as shooters in competitions in pistol shooting over 25 and 50 m and in shooting with sport and order rifles (caliber 7.5 mm Swiss (GP 11) or 5.6 mm ( Gw Pat 90)) over 300 m. The claim to the designation "largest shooting festival in the world" is derived from this large number of participants. An even larger event that is held annually is the “ Federal Field Shooting ” with around 150,000 participants ; however, it is carried out decentrally over the whole country on two days. In contrast to the German rifle festivals, there are generally no show booths and other amusements at Swiss rifle festivals (exception: Zurich boys' shooting). The adjacent gallery gives an impression of the technical organization of such mass competitions.

In addition to the federal shooting festivals, there are also the cantonal shooting festivals as well as regional or regional shooting events as well as other regional and local shooting events. That's about three dozen shooting festivals a year, spread across the whole country. Organizers of shooting festivals can be cantonal, sub-association and regional sub-associations as well as associations or special supporting organizations. If these are approved by the Swiss Shooting Sports Association (SSV) , they appear in the shooting calendar published by the SSV. Some of these have a tradition that can be documented for several centuries; The Toggenburger Landschießen will take place for the 356th time in 2009.


  • The French film director Jacques Tati made an amusing film about events during a village festival, which was given the German title " Tatis Schützenfest " ( Jour de fête , 1949). In fact, there is no shooting festival in the film. Tati's film was the first French color film.
  • If a lot of goals are scored in a football game, it is also colloquially referred to as a "shooting festival".
  • Despite having the same name, the Biberach rifle festival has nothing to do with the usual rifle festivals in western and northern Germany. Rather, it is one of the historical children's festivals in southern Germany, was probably originally a school festival and probably got its name from its location, the "Schützenberg". The so-called "beaver shooting" (see above), in which the older school classes shoot crossbows at a beaver board, is just one item on the program among a large variety of festive events.
  • The first public shooting festival in Germany, at which firearms were fired, took place in Leipzig in 1498 . The so-called “prince shooting” was the first nationwide of its kind, in which participants from other areas of the empire also took part.

See also


  • August closing time: History of the federal free shooting. A sharp spot on the festive altar of the four-hundred-year-old battle celebration of St. Jakob and the associated federal free shooting in Basel in July 1844 . Meyer & Zeller publishing house, Zurich 1844.
  • Ulrich Grun : Schützen unterm Hakenkreuz , in: Reinhard Laumanns (Ed.): Lippstädter Heimatblätter, ZDB-ID 631644-X, No. 64 (1984), p. 139 ff

Web links

Commons : Schützenfest  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Schützenfest  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Stemplinger's Perpetual Bavarian Calendar, (Volume 2, November 18)
  2. ^ Wolfgang Schneider: Folk culture and everyday life. In: Ulrich Wagner (Hrsg.): History of the city of Würzburg. Volume 1: From the beginning to the outbreak of the Peasants' War. Theiss, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-8062-1465-4 , pp. 491-514 and 661-665, here: pp. 502 and 663.
  3. ^ The first German shooting festival in Frankfurt am Main from July 13th to 22nd, 1862 . Documentation. Frankfurt 1862 ( ).
  4. Schützenfest Hannover: New concept presented at
  5. Helga Bittner: The King's Parade: A pleasure even when it rains. In: Neuss-Grevenbroicher newspaper. August 26, 2011. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  6. Dates. In: St. Sebastianus Schützenverein Olpe e. V. Accessed on March 21, 2020 (German).
  7. ^ European Shooting Festival Peine 2015
  8. European Community of Historical Shooters
  9. Festival brochure for the Biberacher Schützenfest 2006.
  10. Leipzig Sports Chronicle 1443–2002. Stadtsportbund Leipzig eV ( ( Memento from March 4, 2012 in the Internet Archive ))