BOW VALLEY — Randy Noecker and Tom Wiebelhaus were happy to be hungry Sunday night at Bow Valley’s Schuetzenfest.
The event was an “overwhelming success” - so much so that vendors ran out of food at about 7 p.m.
“I was just as surprised as I was hungry,” Noecker said with a laugh.
While the Bow Valley Park Association members had to work to scrounge up a meal, they couldn’t contain their excitement at all of the visitors who descended upon the Bow Valley Ballroom to participate in the German heritage festival that was started here 125 years ago.
Not only did locals and the region’s residents turn up but people attended from all parts of Nebraska and even from out of state - Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Iowa, South Dakota, and Mississippi.
Noecker estimates 1,500 to 2,000 in all took in the Schuetzenfest activities that included baseball games, a horseshoe tournament, a special Mass, cemetery memorial services, shooting of the cannon, shooter’s banquet, dance, parade, kids coin dig, greased pig contest, crowing of the Schuetzenfest King & Queen and of course, the shooting of the bird.
Matt Potts of Crofton, and his girlfriend Amber Johnson of Yankton, S.D., were crowned as King & Queen.
“I felt like a deer in the headlights. It was a shock, honestly. It was a good experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Potts said. “Everyone is bowing down to me still,” Potts said with a laugh.
Potts said Johnson was especially shocked especially since the duo have only been a couple for about a month, now.
But she is the perfect person to wear the Schuetzenfest queen title. She comes from past Schuetzenfest royalty as her grandfather, Henry Arens, won the Schuetzenfest King title in 1936.
Noecker said his highlight each Schuetzenfest is the memorial march at the cemetery.
“That part, you get all choked up,” he said.
Wiebelhaus said the shooter’s banquet was a first-time event supported by Northeast Ag.
“That was an incredible bonding time for the male members and their wives,” he said. “It builds a lot of camaraderie.”
The special Mass held at St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Bow Valley was especially memorable as well, Wiebelhaus said.
“The priest said we need to have a Schuetzenfest every weekend,” he said. “There was no room left in the church with 60-80 people standing.”
But it was the comments from those attending Mass that really made an impact especially one from a Mississippi man.
“He said, ‘I’ve been to a lot of organized events around the United States and the way you all came into church so reverently as a community and so responsibly, that really moved me,’” Wiebelhaus said.
Neither Noecker nor Wiebelhaus can point to one single factor that led to the event’s success or the high attendance numbers.
Two years of planning accounted for many of the event details. However, the Park Association couldn’t have pulled it off without the help of its 15 participating communities, numerous volunteers and sponsors.
“It takes community,” Wiebelhaus said. “I’m the president of the Park Association but it’s not about me or anything else. It’s all about community and bringing the community together and having a good time together.”
Park Association members were cleaning up after the party Monday morning, and will meet soon to discuss plans for the next Schuetzenfest in 2026.
“I met third-generation Germans that have never experienced anything like this and we’ll continue doing it every five years and keep it special,” Wiebelhaus said.
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