Cranger Kirmes –
A philharmonic for the everyman
Particular moments of joie de vivre for around four million people every year.
On a summer’s day
at the Cranger Kirmes.
The largest folk festival in North Rhine-Westphalia invites both large and small to fun and entertainment. Children urge their parents on to the colorful carousels. Whether a trip in a red fire engine or a ride on the historic wooden horse, they cannot get enough. An old married couple listens, deep in thought, to the sound of the historic concert organ. Teenagers run a speedy race on motor scooters.
Who doesn’t fondly remember their first visit to a fair? The cotton candy, spreading itself obstinately across your entire face, the first ride on a carousel, the big red candied apples, and a finale of a generous helping of fries.
Folk festivals are festivals for the people. For centuries, they have offered people entertainment and escape from the daily routine, and at the same time
earned their indispensable position in both rural and city life. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said in his learned Faust in the Easter Walk: “I hear the village bustle, this is the people’s real heaven. Satisfied, large and small rejoice: Here I am human, here I can be!”
With the Cranger Kirmes, the Crange district in Herne becomes the hub of the universe once a year for all folk festival lovers. The image of the ten-day event shines far out beyond the region. The world is more beautiful when one can sense that it is turning.
Measured by daily visitor count, the Cranger Kirmes is the most visited folk festival in Germany today. Everything began – albeit on a much smaller scale – several hundred years ago: In the 15th century, a horse market was established around the Laurentiustag holiday (10 August) in Crange. The horse handlers were joined over the course of time by entertainers, dancers, conjurers, magicians, and performers. The festival participants offered the visitors not only amusement and entertainment, but also spread news and communications – the fairgrounds as an information exchange.
Today over four million people each year are drawn to the festival at the Rhein-Herne canal. More than 500 performers in 111,000 square metres of space present sheer Kirmes enjoyment. Whether snacks, games or shooting galleries, beer gardens, carousels, ghost trains or motor scooters – no wish is unfulfilled.
Celebration is a fundamental human need, which can be filled nowhere so freely as at the festival. To celebrate at Crange is something special. The people identify with “their” Kirmes and some even take extra vacation days in order to make full use of the fantastic event. Crange is deeply entwined with the culture of the Ruhr region and its people. It is an internationally known festival with visitors from all across Europe, but nevertheless has never lost the charm of a small village fair. And this is what makes the folk festival so unique: Crange is a feeling, the marriage market for people from Wanne-Eickel, their pageant a mirror image of the Ruhr region.
“It’s not a shame to build a carousel on the top of a flower bed.” This quote from Pope John XXIII expresses much about the cultural and social significance of the Kirmes festivals. They have a function in society and community and are necessary so that people can, for a moment, switch off everyday life and enjoy the carefree atmosphere of the event. The ambiance at the festival, the lights, music, warmth and aromas, the decorations of the stalls and shops, open for us all a door into a world where the festival is a part of our thoughts.
And for the presenters, the yearly guest performance at the Cranger Kirmes is more than just a source of revenue, as a large performer family is created here. Time for conversation about work, children, life and business. Time, time enough to take one deep breath. The heart of the folk festival s beats in the Ruhr region.
Performance companies are mainly family businesses, which have already existed over many generations. The businesses are traditionally passed down to successors. For the performers, the family business is much more than an economic company from which income is gained. Their performances represent an obligation to tradition, family awareness, a feeling of belonging together and above all, identification with the trade.
The Cranger Kirmes is a significant economic factor for the city of Herne and the region. Laundromats, breweries, butcher shops and flower shops supply the performers and profit from the event. In addition, taxi and transportation businesses, hotels and pensions are beneficiaries of the fair.
The “Cranger Kirmes” model shows that folk festivals are successful if it is possible to develop an attractive concept and profile with a unique selling point for the respective event. That only comes hand in hand with a reliable partner. The performers and the city of Herne have worked here together successfully for years. The organization of a folk festival, incorporated under public law, forms the basis for this cooperation.
On a summer’s evening at the fairgrounds, the colours of the fireworks are reflected in the Rhein-Herne canal. Music, children’s laughter and a babylonic dissonance of voices combine into a unique symphony. The Cranger Kirmes as a philharmonic of the everyman. Slowly the moon rises, to which the Ruhr region has even dedicated its own song. It says:
“Nothing is so lovely as the moon over Wanne-Eickel, all the air is filled with eternal May and each night at the canal of Wanne-Eickel is perfumed like the nights of Hawaii”.