Flag Parade: the official opening of the Four Days Marches

What do you know about the Flag Parade? Perhaps nothing at all, or perhaps you are overcome with pure nostalgia at the mere mention of it. Whatever association it brings to mind for you, the Flag Parade was an integral part of the Four Days Marches from 1928 to 2011, and made a comeback for the 100th edition in 2016. And this year it is part of the programme again. We delved into the history books to find out more about this tradition and dug up a string of fun facts.

The first-ever Flag Parade

It’s the Monday prior to the 18th edition of the Four Days Marches. The members of the Road Walking Association stand in the courtyard of the Prins Hendrik barracks. The photo shows how much the Four Days Marches has changed over the years. Starting in 1909 with 306 participants - only ten of whom were civilians, as the rest were all military - the Four Days Marches welcomed increasing numbers of civilian participants over the years to come, such as the members of the Road Walking Association. 1928 was also the year that the Four Days Marches went international. With the Olympics held in Amsterdam that year, the organisers of the Four Days Marches decided to open the event to foreign participants. The international participation that year: 48 Germans (military), 40 Brits (civilians), 20 Norwegians (military) and one single Frenchman (photographer).

Relocation to De Wedren

The two detachments of the Colonial Reserve march during the first Flag Parade along De Wedren on the Monday evening ahead of the 28th edition of the Four Days Marches. The Colonial Reserve Corps had been based in Nijmegen since 1890 and played a role in the birth of the Four Days Marches. And there was more. According to Clemens Verhoeven, author of Het vergeten korps – De geschiedenis van de Koloniale Reserve, the corps initiated the festive entry as far back as in 1920: “The musicians lined up in front of the walkers, and in a festive procession, amid great interest from the locals, the participants walked their final kilometres to the barracks at Molenveld. It was the first triumphant entry and it would become a permanent fixture at the Four Days Marches.” Not even the Colonial Reserve Corps could have imagined that this festive entry would become such an annual hit and crowd-puller.

To Goffert Stadium

The Flag Parade is held at Goffert Stadium for the first time. With the Four Days Marches attracting ever larger numbers of participants from all over the world, the Flag Parade had to relocate again. After the Prins Hendrik barracks courtyard, Molenveld and De Wedren, the parade was moved to a much larger location. Look at those crowds! It is 1951 and the year of the 35th edition of the Four Days Marches.

The Four Days Marches turns 75!

The Four Days Marches turns 75 and that calls for a celebration. Birthday gifts come in the form of a record number of participants from a record number of different countries. Walkers from all over the globe descend upon Nijmegen, from as far away as Japan. The ladies may have a rather serious look on their faces, but their banner says it all: ‘We love Nijmegen!’ Over 40,000 people had registered for the 75th anniversary edition, and 38,942 lined up at the starting line on day 1. And that was in 1991, a year when there was media coverage of the Four Days Marches, but nothing like today’s exposure, not to mention the social media exposure.

The Flag Parade is scrapped…and reinstated

Given waning interest in the Flag Parade, it was, to the dismay of many, held for the last time in 2011. But in 2016, on the occasion of the 100th edition of the Four Days Marches, the tradition was revived. Instead of parading at Goffert Stadium, the international walking groups, civilians and military participants, walk through the heart of Nijmegen to finish near De Wedren. It was such a success that the Flag Parade was repeated the following years. There was certainly no lack of interest. People apparently did want to see a parade of all those proud, participating nationalities. The changes that have seen it become a dynamic entry procession through the centre of town have turned out really well. Long live the Flag Parade!

2019 Flag Parade

Has this got you in the mood for this year’s Flag Parade? Of course it has! Come and enjoy the Flag Parade on Sunday 14 July from 15.45 hrs. The route that the participating groups will take is:

Start on Kanaalstraat (near Westerpark) and then onward along Weurtseweg - Voorstadslaan - Lange Hezelstraat - Parkweg - Doddendaal - Plein ‘44 - Augustijnenstraat - Grote Markt - Burchtstraat - Hertogstraat - Van Broeckhuysenstraat - Van Schevichavenstraat - Oversteek Oranjesingel to the final destination on Prins Bernhardstraat.

Sources: 4daagse.nl, historiek.net and regionaalarchiefnijmegen.nl

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