Gillespie County Tradition: Schuetzenfest JUL 01 2016
The Gillespie County Bundes Schuetzenfest returns this July 30 and 31, but many ask, what the heck is a Schuetzenfest? It’s a traditional German target shooting competition, but the history goes much deeper than that.
The origin of the Schuetzenfest can be traced back to the military drills of medieval armies and Renaissance citizen militias. Eventually the defense was no longer needed, and the citizens took up the target shooting tradition as a competitive sport.
Fredericksburg’s founders brought this German tradition of target shooting to Fredericksburg in the mid-1800’s. The Gillespie County Schuetzenbund (marksmen’s association) was formed and the first county meeting was held at Max Wahrmund’s Hall and Bar in Fredericksburg on November 27, 1892. The first Schuetzenfest was then held in Grapetown on July 29 and 30, 1893.
In the early competitions the shooting range was 100 to 150 yards. Early shooters used heavy caliber guns and typically prepared their own shells, even reloading shells on the range.
Today’s Schuetzenfest range stands at 200 yards and most heavy caliber guns have been converted to .22 caliber specialty guns. Scoring is now based on an individual’s 10 shots and teams of six are formed for the team competition division. The highest score an individual can earn is 100, and as a testament to the demands of the shoot, only four individuals have ever achieved a score of 100 in the history of the Gillespie County Bundes Schuetzenfest.
The specialty guns used in the Schuetzenfest remain similar to the early days- all are specialty guns typically weighing 20 to 25 pounds and are four to five feet long. The method of shooting also remains the same, with shooters resting their guns on barrels or other rests.
As for the event itself, the Schuetzenfest begins with a parade, complete with a band, followed by a “bund meeting” in which participants review the rules of the Schuetzenfest, choose teams and prepare for the competition.
The Schuetzenfest concludes with another parade, led by the winning shooting teams, in which the “Schuetzenkoenig” or “Schuetzenkoenigen” (king or queen) are carried on the shoulders of his or her teammates.
Two Kings are actually crowned- one for the rim fire category and one for the center fire category. The parade includes a band and ends with awards, including awarding the “er lebe hoch” honors- meaning “he lives high.” Additional awards are given for the oldest and youngest shooters and highest score for a female shooter. Each year members of the shooting clubs also induct two members into the Schuetzenfest Hall of Fame.
Another fun fact, the Schuetzenfest is the second longest running event in Gillespie County, just behind the Gillespie County Fair.
Want an up-close look at the Schuetzenfest? Make plans to attend the Gillespie County Bundes Schuetzenfest on Saturday, July 30, and Sunday, July 31, 2016. Admission is free and spectators are welcome. For more information on the event, click here.