A Toast to Kolping’s King
Schützenfest, the Cincinnati Kolping Society’s annual authentic German shooting festival, starts tonight and runs through Sunday. Here’s our story on the 2012 festival and the crowning of the Schützenfest King.
Every year since 1925, a new king has shot his way to royalty at the Catholic Kolping Society’s annual Schützenfest.
The shooting contest was first held here in 1866 by a German group called the Schuzenfest Verien (the Rifleman’s Society) and was popular for decades. Revived in 1925 by the new Katholischer Gesellenverein (Catholic Journeyman’s Club, now the Kolping Society), it has been held in various locations. Since the Society’s present headquarters were built in 1992 it has been held in Springfield Township (OH) and is now the culmination of a three-day festival that attracts thousands from around the region.
All male members of the Society may enter the annual shooting contest. Participants shoot at a carved wooden eagle perched high on a pole. The marksman whose shot destroys the last bit of the eagle is crowned the Schützenfest King. He will preside over Schützenfest balls, parties, and other activities until the next festival.
The Kolping Society has a shooting club, the Schuetzenfest Club, which meets monthly. More than 25 teams practice marksmanship, shoot for prizes, and hold an annual banquet. The Society also has many other groups and activities, sponsors sports teams, raises money for charities, and holds special Masses throughout the year.
Kolping Societies were started in Germany by Fr. (now Blessed) Adolph Kolping, a young priest who worked with journeymen in industrial cities. By the time he died in 1865, there were more than 400 journeymen’s associations around the world. Today the International Kolping Society has more than 275,000 members in Germany and a total of almost 500,000 members in 59 countries. Each branch is called a “family,” because of the Catholic teaching that the family is the basic unit of society. The Cincinnati “family” has about 700 members.
The Cincinnati family’s “house” is the Kolping Center on Mill Road, which includes a meeting hall, a picnic grove, and sports fields. During Schützenfest, the 9-acre property is jammed with people sampling German food and beer, enjoying rides and games, listening to German music, and watching German dancing. Dirndls and lederhosen are as plentiful as jeans and t-shirts.
When this year’s King, Erwin Dobler, finished off the last of the eagle, he was carried through the crowd to the picnic grove hall for a ceremonial glass of beer. The band played “Ein prosit” and everyone raised a glass and sang, “Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit!” And gemütlichkeit, that uniquely German feeling of wellbeing and good cheer, was indeed had by all.
Photos by Gail Deibler Finke. For a gallery of photos, see our Facebook page.
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