The Schützenfest is a huge annual event that excites young and old. Parallel to the funfair each summer, numerous corps in their stunning uniforms march proudly through the centre of town upholding a long tradtition that includes clay pidgeon shoting. More...
During the Middle Ages citizens of Neuss, as in any other German city, had the obligation to watch over their city and, in the case of an emergency defend it. An annual shooting competition was supposed to test the ability of the citizens to use their weapons. Even then, the marksmen shot for prizes and wreaths, crowning the best among them as their king.
In the 15th century the marksmen system with military character linked with the city shooting competitions. The Schützenfest (Riflemen’s Festival), as it is known today was born. Today the festival is no longer of military character but more traditional and social. That’s why marksmen wear uniforms with dummy guns.
Founded in 1823 the event counted 100 participants that year. In 1824 it was already 135. In the following decades today’s structures developed. First of all, a committee was elected to organise the Riflemen’s Festival, later the marksmen’s parade was added to the festival’s programme and finally the regiment split into different corps.
Over the years ten corps developed with up to 1400 marksmen belonging to a single corps nowadays. They differ from each other by wearing their own specific uniforms. This way the parades are highly diversified because they are dressed so individually.
Thundering cannons officially start the Schützenfest at noon on Saturday. After several parades through the city, which is decorated in its colours red and white, the last day is dedicated to the shooting competition.
Contestants compete by shooting at a wooden representation of a bird (Vogel). One after the other they shoot at it until it falls down. The log of wood does not always have to be the shape of a bird. Other cities shoot at a wooden eagle or beaver for example.
What all such festivals have in common is that the winner becomes the new Schützenkönig (king of marksmen) until next year’s competition. Any marksman may participate in the competition but has to bear in mind that becoming the king of marksmen incurs a considerable expense and also expenditure of time. After the shooting the Grand Zapfenstreich (taping of beer) takes place in the marquee before the last parade leads through the city and ends with passing the new Schützenkönig.