Every three years the European Guild of Historic Marksmen (EGS) holds a Marksmen Festival with many competitions including a shooting competition to name the King of Europe as the best shooter in the land. The EGS is committee of historic marksmen guilds. In 1975 representatives from guilds in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands gathered together to establish the EGS. Now there are almost a million members and their families from 2,800 brotherhoods, guilds and marksmen unions and societies from Italy, France, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia Sweden, The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein. With a knowledge of the history of the particular groups and a fondness for European togetherness, the EGS has promoted community interaction and cultural exchanges. Brotherhood strengthens European unity and encourages respect for all of the multicolored traditions.
At the marksman festival guilds come together to celebrate their distinct cultures and their European unity. A “King of Europe” is selected through a shooting competition. Each guild presents one king who is their representative in the shooting competition. The kings took turns shooting at a wooden “king Bird” that is attached to a wooden board. The winner is the one to remove the bird from the wooden board. During the challenge it is difficult to see if the bird has sustained any damage so it is an exciting challenge. The victor is crowned as the King of Europe and will be the highest representative of the EGS for the next three years. His reign is marked by many trips around Europe to various guilds and events in Rome, Berlin, Switzerland, Ukraine and other sites.
The most recent Marksman festival was on August 25th, 2015 in Tuchola, Poland. A total of 320 marksman guilds from across Europe attended the event. Each guild chose their King to compete in the King shooting. With the 119th shot at the King Bird, Toon Weijtmans of the Udenhout Guild St Anthony-St. Sebastian removed the king bird from the wooden board and became the King of Europe. The EGS held a special coronation ceremony at the St. Bartholomew’s Church in Tuchola with pastor Bishop Hurkmans from Den Bosch presiding. Toon is the King of Europe for the next three years and will get to enjoy the benefits of being king!
Besides the King shooting completion, the marksmen festival has many activities that promote community fellowship. Guilds exhibit their heritage and history through parading of flags, music, drums, rifle shooting, longbow shooting and crossbow shooting. Some of these traditions have been passed down for many generations. The event changes venue each three year period so local culture is on display and the meetings are imbued with a local character.
During the 3 years between each Marksmen festival are many special events organized by many of the guilds and brotherhoods of the EGS. These are different symposiums and specialist meetings. At these events guild members are invited to train in diverse areas of marksmanship. Local guilds have different traditions and it is fun to visit their home grounds and learn about their culture and heritage in the midst of the discipline of marksmanship.