You can hear them from afar. The distinctive sound of the cowbells grows, as the herds get closer to the village. The safe return of the cattle from a summer’s grazing on lush upland pastures is cause for a big and proud celebration each year in autumn. Local people gather together with holidaymakers, to line the streets along the route the steadily growing herd is to take. “The cattle parade is above all an expression of gratitude,” says Hans Feller, Chairman of the Kelchsau Cattle Drive who told me all about this annual bovine parade.
What is it that makes the cattle parade in Kelchsau so special?
Our cattle drive has a long and cherished tradition. Dotted with sun-bleached timbered farmhouses, balconies bedecked with flowers, Kelchsau is a beautiful village with a strong community of farmers. This is reflected in distinctive traditions, such as the annual cattle drive, which visitors are warmly welcomed to enjoy – it is an experience you have to see to believe.
How many people are involved in the organization and how many visitors join in the celebrations?
The program is organized by four local associations with about ten members each. An estimated 500 to 1,000 visitors come and join the celebration in Kelchsau each year. We cannot accommodate more people – and we don’t want to because crowds would ruin the bucolic atmosphere.
What can visitors expect from the event?
Festivities commence at 09:30 in the morning. Holidaymakers can stroll around the village where stalls are being set up in the street, selling cheese, bacon, bread and all sorts of locally produced specialty foods. Later on, mouthwatering must-eat dishes from Unterinntal Region are served, from “Brodakrapfen” and “Kiachln” to “Kasspatzln” and dumplings. There will be a crafts market where skilled artisans lovingly labor over wood and where sheep are sheared. Brass bands are out in force and the streets are full of people in traditional Tirolean costume of dirndl and lederhosen.
How many cows make their slow procession through the streets of the village?
Each farmer has up to 100 animals that are driven down from the high altitude summer pastures to their winter quarters in the valley. The cattle are decked out in garlands of flowers and ribbons, with bells attached to their heavy leather collars. The jangling of the cowbells, the marching brass band, the clapping and the cheering of the crowds and the shouts of the farmhands all combine to create a fantastic experience – deeply rooted in tradition!