The Biggest Funfair on the Rhine is organised by Düsseldorf's St. Sebastian shooting club, which dates back almost 700 years and currently numbers more than 1,500 members. It's held in celebration of the club's patron St. Apollinaris, whose feast day is on 23 July. The highlight is the historical parade, one of the biggest and most spectacular in Germany, with over 3,000 uniformed marksmen, marching bands and horse-drawn carriages.
St. Apollinaris was declared Düsseldorf's patron saint when the city acquired some of the martyr's relics in around 1300. A beautiful shrine, now in St. Lambert's Church in the old town, was built in his honour. Eventually the annual commemorations evolved into a fair at which it was customary for the club St. Sebastianus Schützenverein 1316 e.V. to shoot dummy birds. Whoever shot down the bird was named shooting king for that year – a tradition that still continues today. Apart from this, the fair has changed dramatically. Nowadays the 165,000 square metre fairground on the bank of the Rhine boasts masses of rides from Germany and abroad, which are all geared up to thrill more than four million visitors from all over the world. Everyone looks forward to the historical parade – and the sensational fireworks above the city. Those in the know will tell you that the best place to view the fireworks is from the middle of the Rhine on board the MS Riverstar, an elegant vessel whose wood and brass fittings hark back to the glory days of travel. Sadly the boat can only accommodate around 170 passengers – so early booking is advised.
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