»Schützen« once and now
The “Biberacher Schützenfest” is not the same as the “Schützenfeste” in North- and West- Germany, which are common German fairs with public shooting matches, even if they share the same name. In a process which has been developing for some centuries now, it has lead to the current historic children and folk festival. In local colloquial terms the year is split into "vor dr Schütza" (before “Schützenfest”) and "nach dr Schütza" (after “Schützenfest).
In its origin the “Biberacher Schützenfest” was a school festival, which was separately celebrated by both confessions. It was mentioned in official documents for the first time in 1650 as a Lutheran festival and as a catholic festival in 1703. The “Schützenfest” earned its name because the traditional procession of school kids led to the “Schützenhaus”, the old town armory, which is now called the “Schützenkeller”, located on the “Schützenberg”, a hill in Biberach.
The modern development of the “Schützenfest” coincides with the city’s historic independence. In 1802 the choral "Rund um mich her ist alles Freude" – there is happiness all around me - was raised for the first time; soon it became the festival song for all citizens of Biberach. Some decades of careful development followed, first under the domination of the Duchy of Baden, then under the rule of Württemberg, until the current basic form of the Schützenfest evolved in the Biedermeier period. For example, there has been a free lottery for children called "Ziehung" since 1810, where every lot wins. The “Festzug” - a colorful parade - was at the beginning a kind of flower- and flag parade. Drummer groups appeared for the first time in 1816. The "kleine Schützenmusik" – a youth brass band - has its origins in the boys orchestra from 1821 onward.
Since 1819 children have been playing in the "Schützentheater" – a children’s theater that has become a tradition in itself like the Schützenfest, which was interrupted by both World Wars. The "Schützenteater" has developed its current characteristic through its performance of fairy tales with in a musical-like style with strong elements of ballet - and through elaborate mass direction. Only kids and teenagers act on the stage and play in the orchestra pit.
“Schützen”, as the “Schützenfest” is called colloquially, has been a collective event of both Christian denominations since 1824. Since 1834 the “Schützendirektion” has been the organising institution. In the course of time this body has grown from three to more than forty honorary members, supported by an advisory council.
The age of the "Third Reich" has on the one hand brought several contestations to the "Schützenfest". On the other hand new additions have evolved. The "Heimatstunde" - a historic presentation – has become a fixed element of the festival program; it has turned into a highly ranked event which covers a different element of the city’s history each year.
Right before the beginning of World War II the development of the "historischer Festzug” – historic parade - began. From the earliest documented mention of Biberach from the time of the emperors of the “Salier” till the Bismarck era the history of the city is shown in exemplary scenes. The especially careful study of historic sources and the reproduction of historic events and persons as true to the original as anyhow possible characterize the historic parade on “Schützendienstag” - Tuesday during Schützen - and once again at “Bauernschützen” – the last Sunday of Schützen. More than 200 harnessed and riding horses with contemporary attire are an impressive attraction.
Also the “Lagerleben” - a camp event of historical groups that take part in parades along the Gigelberg´s pictorial site - is a special part of the “Schützenfest”. The “Zunfttänze” - historical guild dances – display craftsmanship-based customs in our current times.The “Tanz durch die Jahrhundertes“ shows rustical, civil, courtly and modern dances from different eras.
The “Bunte Festzug” – the mixed, colourful parade – presents itself in a different way every year on “Schützenmontag” – the first Monday of Schützen. Every school in Biberach chooses a topic and shapes and displays its interpretation of it on the parade with a lot of fantasy and creativity.The competition between the schools for the best presentation of their topic has contributed a lot to the parade’s high standards.
Its current character of a children´s festival isn´t only emphasized by the “Schützenspiele” – a free fun fair for kids – but as well by the ‚Ziehung‘ - the children's lottery - for the younger kids and the ‚Bieberschießen‘ - a crossbow shooting contest for older students.
More and more, “Schützen” is turning into a big city festival. The participation of numerous spontaneously formed groups of teenagers and adults is proof for that. Some of the groups are the “Baltringer Haufen”, the “Räuberbande des Schwarzen Veri”, the “WG- Trommler” - an impressive youth drummer group from the Wieland-Gymnasium - as weil as the “Scharwächter” and the dancing companies for the “Tanz durch die Jahrhunderte”. The strong integration of the “Jahrgänger- Feiern” - a parade for people with big birthdays beginning with the 40th birthday - bears witness to that fact, too. The “Tanz für Jung und Alt” - the dances for the younger and for the elderly - on the market place of Biberach unite much more than 10.000 people of all generations and backgrounds. Especially, the huge funpark on the Gigelberg and the old beer cellars complete this special festival attraction.
During its nine days the “Biberacher Schützenfest” with its festival-like character offers performances with high cultural claims, major historic events and amusements for children. The old and new “Biber” – inhabitants of the city of Biberach - love their “Schützen” as it is the highlight of every year.
Translated by Jens Hoffmann, class 10a (Wieland-Gymnasium)