With its origins in the guild meeting for the shepherds who tended their sheep on the Swabian Alb, the "Schäferlauf" in Bad Urach has developed into the biggest folk festival held in the region.
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It has taken place every two years for the last 275 years and owes its existence to a decree issued by Duke Eberhard Ludwig in 1723, who wanted to spare the shepherds of the Alb the arduous journey to the shepherds' meeting in Markgröningen. The heart of the event are competitions for young shepherds and the legendary race for the Shepherd's Crown, while a large festival has grown up around this to which people come in their thousands.
Sunday is the main day, which begins early with a small procession and entertainment on the Market Square. The highlight is a colourful historical procession through the romantic town centre to the festival ground at Zittelstatt, where the competitions, dancing and the "Schäferreigen" (a formation dance to traditional music) take place. The day ends with a performance of the play "D'Schäferlies" and the "Marktplatzhock" with music, food and drink.
For several days leading up to the main events, however the whole town will have been enjoying itself with a fairground and marquee. The traditional herding competitions take place in the Wittlingen district on the Saturday. The 12,300 inhabitants of Bad Urach are not celebrate this traditional Swabian festival on their own – visitors come from miles around to join in the fun.
The next Schäferlauf will take place on 26 July 2015.