The Shots Party has always been inseparably linked to the International Four Day Marches of Nijmegen, with various locations next to the route of this amazing event. But what are those Four Day Marches actually? In order to explain this we have to go back to the year 1909 when the first Four Day Marches were organised, starting from 15 different locations in the Netherlands. Only 306 contestants started of which just 10 were civilians and the rest were soldiers who had to walk at least 140km in four days (35km a day). Four years later the organisation came up with some new rules giving the contestants a time limit and the option to choose from various distances they wished to walk. The time limit for 35km or 45km was 12 hours while for 55km they were given 13 hours. Because of these strict rules not everyone made it to the finish in time and from 151 contestants only 143 made it to the finish that year. It was also the first year that a female contestant joined the Four Day Marches! These days the International Four Day Marches are the biggest event of its kind in the world! Over 42.000 contestants walk for 4 days through Nijmegen and surrounding villages. They have the choice to achieve 120, 160 or 200km during a set timeframe. Most of them will finish at the famous “Via Gladiola” where they will receive their coveted 4 Day Marches medal of honour, which is now “Royally Recognised”! The Wednesday of this famous event (the 2nd day) is also known as Pink Wednesday. This day is to raise awareness of various minority groups and to celebrate the freedom of sexual preferences, may it be straight, gay, bi or whatever you are! It is to show the world that in no matter what diversity people come, they all can celebrate together!
The “vierdaagse” (Dutch for “Four day Event”) is an annual walk that has taken place since 1909, being based at Nijmegen since 1916. Depending on age group and category, walkers have to walk 30, 40 or 50 kilometers each day for four days. Originally a military event with a few civilians, it now is a mainly civilian event. Numbers have risen in recent years, with over 45,000 taking part - including about 5,000 Military. It is now the world’s largest walking event. Due to crowds on the route, since 2004 the organisers have limited the number of participants. Those who complete the march receive the ‘Vierdaagse Cross’, an official Dutch decoration that can be worn on a Dutch uniform. Many participants take part every year, including several that have taken part in 50, and even 60 different annual marches. The first day of walking is always the 3rd Tuesday in July. Each day of the marches is named after the biggest town it goes through. Tuesday is the day of Elst, Wednesday the day of Wijchen, Thursday the day of Groesbeek and Friday the day of Cuijk. The routes always stay the same unless there is a specific need to change, as it did in 2007 (route changed in 2006 but cancelled) when the walkers went through the Waalkade on Wednesday for the first time since the original route got too crowded and walkers had to wait for over an hour at some times. 2006 was the first year to be cancelled in 90 years (apart from WW II). After the first day’s march there were thousands of drop-outs and two deaths because of extreme heat. On the Friday, as participants near the finish, the public awards the walkers with Gladioli. A symbol of force and victory stemming from Roman times where gladiators where showered with Gladioli, the Nijmegen walkers are similarly ‘showered’ in flowers on their arrival. The entry into the city and towards the finish, the St. Annastreet, is for that reason called Via Gladiola during the Nijmegen Marches.
Nijmegen will be one big outdoor stage for the whole week during the Four Day Marches. There will be more than 200 free gigs divided over 35 stages with the biggest dj’s, bands and singer/ songwriters performing for enthusiastic crowds! There will also be memorials, several art gallery expositions and a big firework show on the “Waalkade”. More than 1 Million visitors will come and visit Nijmegen every year to be a part of this amazing event! Now there is the question about what the motivation is for people to walk these considerable distances. While some of the contestants just walk for the fun of it, a lot of them walk to raise money for a charity that they support. Before the start of this challenge they make sure to have sponsors in place and collect the money for their charity when they make it to the finish, or for every kilometre achieved.
Nijmegen is situated on the banks of the Waal, a branch of the Rhine in the region of the ‘Great Rivers’, and a mere 10 kilometers from the German border. Of Roman origin (its name derives from ‘Noviomagus’ meaning ‘new market’) the city celebrated its 2000th anniversary in 2005. This makes Nijmegen the oldest city in the Netherlands. Nijmegen was also the imperial residence during the Carolingian period. The ‘Valkhof’ - ‘Falcon’s Court’ - is the highest point of the city overlooking the river. It was once the site of Charlemagne’s castle. From this vantage point, which is now a scenic park, the typically Dutch polder landscape and rolling hills provide a beautiful panorama. The Great Rivers marked the northern frontier of the Roman Empire, and no doubt the Romans settled here because of the splendid strategic view of enemy territory across the river. For similarly strategic reasons, subsequent kings and other rulers chose Nijmegen as their place of residence. Until a century ago, Nijmegen was a fortified town, its surroundings the scene of many fierce battles. However, in 1879 the old city defences were torn down, as they posed an increasing obstacle to the city’s prosperity. A period of spectacular growth followed, and within a few decades the railway bridge across the Waal was constructed, and gas, electricity and water mains were installed in the city. The Second World War is a black page in Nijmegen’s history. On February 22, 1944, allied forces bombed the city by mistake, killing 800 people. A few months later, Nijmegen was liberated following the U.S. airborne landings of ‘Operation Market Garden’, which freed the southern part of the Netherlands on September 17, 1944. Badly damaged in the war, much was done to rebuild the city in the post-war period and a new city centre arose in which the remaining monuments of Nijmegen’s rich history occupy a special position.