Aussicht auf die Kirmes, © Marcus-Bottin

All Saints’ Day Fair in Soest

Europe’s largest old-town fair

|Novem­ber| Hawkers and “bull’s eyes” in a pic­tur­esque old town set­ting: Old tra­di­tions live on and spe­cial ex­per­i­ences await at the Soest All Saints’ Day Fair.

An old town sounds like an un­likely set­ting for a fun­fair. But every year in early Novem­ber, vis­it­ors flock to Soest in Sauer­land for a large and col­our­ful fun­fair right in the centre of town. This an­nu­al event takes place over five days from the first Wed­nes­day fol­low­ing All Saints? Day.

At Europe?s largest old-town fair, the fun takes place not on a char­ac­ter­less site on the out­skirts of town, but right in the his­tor­ic­al centre of Soest with its idyll­ic streets, al­ley­ways and squares. Every year, the bright flash­ing lights of the high-tech rides trans­form the unique green sand­stone build­ings of Soest?s old town in­to an in­cred­ible sea of col­our and lights.

One mil­lion an­nu­al vis­it­ors

When a town with only 50,000 in­hab­it­ants is in­vaded by al­most one mil­lion vis­it­ors, it goes without say­ing that the place gets more than a little crowded. But that is ex­actly what makes the All Saints? Day Fair such an un­for­get­table ex­per­i­ence.

The 400 or so stalls, stands and rides look par­tic­u­larly ap­peal­ing against the pic­tur­esque back­drop of the old town. Of the 40-plus rides, fun­houses and amuse­ments, over 15 are de­signed es­pe­cially for kids, which gives the All Saints? Day Fair its de­served repu­ta­tion as a fam­ily-friendly event.

Vis­it­ors young and old will need plenty of stam­ina if they want to dis­cov­er the en­tire fair in a single day: If all the rides and stalls were ar­ranged in a row, they would stretch for a total dis­tance of three kilo­metres.

The re­li­gious ori­gins of the fair

The All Saints? Day Fair was not al­ways or­gan­ised on this scale, how­ever. Its ori­gins can be traced back to a cel­eb­ra­tion of the old­est church in Soest. The Church of St. Petri was con­sec­rated on All Saints? Day many cen­tur­ies ago, and the town marked the oc­ca­sion with a large fest­iv­al en­livened by jesters, pup­pet­eers and tightrope-walk­ers. Small traders and large mer­chants also came to Soest to sell cattle, horses, wax and an­im­al skins and to forge con­tacts with the busi­ness­men of the Hanseat­ic town of Soest.

Many oth­er fairs which are still go­ing strong in North Rhine-West­phalia can like­wise trace their ori­gins to the con­sec­ra­tion of a church be­fore its first ser­vice. Sev­er­al towns, in­clud­ing Soest, de­cided to cel­eb­rate the con­sec­ra­tion date as a re­cur­ring re­li­gious fest­iv­al, which later evolved in­to a sec­u­lar fair.

Tra­di­tion­al horse fair

Today?s vis­it­ors can still ex­per­i­ence age-old tra­di­tion at the All Saints? Day Fair. The an­nu­al horse fair takes place on Thursday, and is at­ten­ded by around 100 traders vy­ing to sell not only horses but also cattle, ag­ri­cul­tur­al ma­chinery and bric-a-brac. The shouts of the tra­di­tion­al stall-hold­ers hawk­ing their cheese, fruit or smoked saus­ages give vis­it­ors an idea of what the at­mo­sphere was like in an old-style mar­ket­place.

Mov­ing on to a mod­ern tra­di­tion, there is a par­tic­u­lar drink that has be­come syn­onym­ous with the All Saints? Day Fair: the bull?s eye. The curi­ous name is due to its ap­pear­ance, with the drink be­ing made by adding a dol­lop of cream to a glass of mocha li­queur.


4 to 8 Novem­ber 2020


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Adrenalinkick auf der Kirmes, © Marcus Bottin
Kettenkarussel auf Soester Kirmes, © Tourist Information Soest
Aussicht auf die Kirmes, © Marcus-Bottin
Fahrt auf dem Kettenkarussel, © Marcus Bottin
Riesenrad auf der Kirmes, © Roland Jung

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