Little Britain’s German Festival


There is a wee hamlet near Lockport Manitoba, the only site in Canada, that hosts Schutzenfest. Rather remarkable considering there are multiple locations through out the world. There is even one in Namibia.

I wondered how a hamlet called Little Britain came to celebrate a German festival. A cursory search shows the original settlers were from Britain (mostly Scots). However, the name came ultimately from the meeting house built for Presbyterian Church services was called Little Britain.

According to Wikiwand ’The word Schütze means marksman and protector, as contained in “to shield”, e.g., a Schutzmann is a German policeman. The pride of strong-armed self-defense underlies the popularity of Schützenvereine comparable to the popularity of volunteer fire brigades, particularly in smaller towns or villages.

The main event of a Schützenfest is the shooting competition to determine the marksmen’s king (Schützenkönig) of the following year. The traditional trophy for the winner is an Ehrenscheibe or Königsscheibe, a painted target disk. In rural districts, one finds gables of houses decorated with them

During the Middle Ages, many towns had to find ways to defend themselves from gangs of marauders. For this reason, clubs and associations were founded, comparable to militias; these paramilitaryassociations were sanctioned for the first time in the Law for the Defensive Constitution of the Towns by King Henry I, and officially integrated into the towns’ defense plans. Accompanying the military exercises and physical examinations of the towns’ contingents, festivities were combined with festive processions. Participants from other parishes and, at times, even the feudal heads of state were also invited to these Marksmen’s Courts(Schützenhöfe). However, the self-confident spirit of the townsfolk that marked these festivities was not always regarded positively by the authorities. For this reason, different traditions developed in other regions. The military significance lessened over the centuries and became meaningless with the creation of regular troops and garrisons for national defense. The Schützenfests, however, continued in the form of a regional patriotic tradition.

These traditions include the “Blow of the Flag” (a particular way of waving a flag). The Blow of the Flag in particular, and the waving of the flag in general, are executed according to fixed rules. Competitions are held in the discipline of flag-waving.

Schützenfests may range from one day to several days and may include and be accompanied by various events. They often occur in the festival room of a local public house or in a pavilion especially erected for the occasion. In the Sauerland, many towns have a special Marksmen’s Hall that is used for these festivities. Many Schützenfests start with a festive procession, whereby the reigning King of Marksmen, the royal household, and local dignitaries are all escorted by the marksmen and paraded to the festive square or the festivities. This is often followed by a “royal parade” where the marksmen march past the king and the royal court, with marching bandsCorps of Drums, and fanfare bands playing along. The parading marksmen are formed in platoons or squads depending on the size of the formation, and in large towns and cities, marksmen are formed in companies and in both cases of the parade color guards march along with them. In a lot of cases, the pavilion is surrounded by a funfair.

The most common form of shooting competition is the Bird Shooting. The contestants no longer shoot at actual birds but on a mock bird made of wood and mounted on a pole. The contestant who demounts the last pieces of the wooden bird is the new King of Marksmen. Varying traditions may include shooting wooden animals other than birds or special awards won by hitting certain body parts, e.g., wings, beak, etc

The bird is now made of wood, and has been for many years. This year’s bird is a phoenix rather than the standard eagle.

My friend D sent me a photo of this year’s target.

When D&K lived here in Ontario they always returned for this festival and the excitement was high. People came from surrounding areas and brought food to be shared by all, a main dish and a dessert dish. And barbecues, and parades, and contests, and dances, and of course drinking.

Three days of celebration:

Three days of merriment. You know, communities spend thousands, probably millions, building a feeling of community. I wonder, maybe we just need to come together to celebrate something. Contribute, take part.

From here at North of 43, I’m thinking this is something that has been celebrated for hundreds of years elsewhere in the world, and since 1929 in Little Britain.

Oh, I could not resist putting this sign in. It’s not from Little Britain, but I do like the spirit it. You know, watch for deer, watch for young children, watch for ….

Chris G July 11th ’22

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One is about 43 degrees latitude N. and longitude 80 W, The other almost equidistant south latitude and longitude 174 E. Two women, two minds, different personalities and experiences, choosing a life of meaning, continual growth and learning, at the same time negating ageist opinions of exactly what ‘an old lady’ should be.

13 thoughts on “Little Britain’s German Festival”

    1. It’s amazing how many oldsters attending now were once like the toddlers there today.It seems young and old are equally enthusiastic about it.

      Liked by 2 people

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