Last update: 10 August, 2010.
To place festivals in the context of mining reclamation may seem a stretch. But there is good reason for it. The connection is there, to begin with, in the imagery: the hay bale figures inviting to the villages are decked out in miners' garb. Then there is the miners' brass band in charge of some of the entertaining. And there are biographical accidents: it was the farmer making hay by the edge of a mine who invited me to come to see the riding spectacle in the village where he had moved after his birthplace had been ploughed under.
But more profoundly, the festivals affirm a sense of pride and place. They nourish a spirit of resilience in the face of serious economic, social, and environmental problems. Without this spirit, nobody would care about what happens in and to the post-mining landscape.
Among the more common carnivals, parades, and tractor pulls, The Johannisreiten (John's ride) in Casel is unique. You can learn almost as much as I know about it here. I might add only that sooner or later the attempts at pulling Johann off his horse do succeed. After his costume has been torn to shreds by eager fortune seekers, the afternoon proceeds with tongue-in-cheek riding competitions, maiden dances, speeches, songs, and of course eating and drinking. The number of young adult faces on the fairground in 2010 was remarkable considering that many young people are leaving the area because of its depressed labor market.
The 1950s water treatment towers of the former coke plant in Lauchhammer owe their survival to the pre-modern associations they evoke. They certainly capture the fancy of the Lausitz time travel organization and the medieval reenactment crowd. It's not that there aren't any real castles around, but I suspect that these are less accommodating to campfires, wagon forts, or catapult exercises.
Nostalgia for seemingly simpler and more exciting historical times may not be the best attitude to face the present, but at least it brings in some of the cash required for running industrial heritage projects. And it won't do any harm as long as it remains confined to idle hours.
Unlike the Johannis riders or the medievalists, the miners in the last image impersonate nobody other than themselves. Miners' choirs are still numerous in the area, but they have difficulty recruiting younger members. The retired miners in the picture live in the housing development in the background. They moved there from an older part of town that had to make way for the mine that employed them.