Kiel Week is held annually in the last complete week in June, and opens officially on the preceding Saturday with the official Glasen, followed by the Holstenbummel. The "Soundcheck" is on the Friday before the official opening; it is a music festival across all the stages within the city. Kiel Week ends with a large fireworks display at 11 p.m. on Sunday, fired from pontoons or the quays at the Howaldtswerke, visible all across the Bay of Kiel.
Most ship races begin at the Olympic harbor of Schilksee, also the center of most sporting activities during Kiel Week. As Schilksee is located outside of the inner city and most sailing competitions take place yet further out, only some races - mainly of smaller boat types - can be viewed from shore, namely from along the Kiellinie at the west coast of the Bay of Kiel.
Kiel Week usually gathers around 5,000 sailors, 2,000 ships, and about three million visitors each year. The event is organized in joint effort by the Yacht Club of Kiel, the Norddeutscher Regattaverein, the Hamburger Sailing Club, and the Verein Seglerhaus am Wannsee.
While Kiel Week started out as a ship racing championship, it has long since become a large festival with many popular bands playing on public stages. They often play for free, although the corporate sponsors (many from the Schleswig-Holstein media and telecommunications industry) usually display their involvement prominently. Most of the stages can be found at the Kiellinie (the western side of the Kieler Förde from the Düsternbrook yacht harbor past the Schleswig-Holstein parliament building to the big inner city ferry harbor), and as of late, across the Hoernbridge to the Germania harbor and the Hörn. Another area of rich cultural activity is the city center (Rathausplatz, Holstenbrücke) and the area connecting the city center with the ferry harbor (Alter Markt, Dänische Straße, Schloßpark). Between the public stages and especially on the International Market on the Rathausplatz, food specialties from different countries can be eaten. Small street performances and street comedy are performed in many places. A special children's program is available at the Spiellinie.
Kiel Week is also one of the largest tall ship conventions in Germany, attracting many German and international traditional ships, mainly sailing ships. Many of them spend the week doing day tours out of Kiel, thus berthing much more in view of the festival visitors than the racing boats at Kiel-Schilksee. More than 100 traditional ships and hundreds of yachts usually participate in the Tall Ships Parade (Windjammer</nowiki>parade) on the day before the closing day of the Kiel Week, i.e. usually on the second Saturday of Kiel Week. The Parade was first held in 1972, under the name of Operation Sail, and was organized in celebration of the Olympic Summer Games in Germany that year, whose sailing competitions took place in Kiel. It was the first large gathering of tall ships since the time of the windjammers, and its success led to the annual Parade and to the foundation of the first sail training organization in Germany (Clipper DJS). Today, the Parade is often headed by the Gorch Fock, a sister ship to the German-built USCGC Eagle (WIX-327).
- June 23, 1882 20 sailing yachts (one of them Danish) participate in a ship race from Düsternbrook. Because of the large success the event is held annually in the following years.
- 1889 The German Emperor Wilhelm II visits the ship races for the first time.
- 1892 More than 100 ships announce themselves for the ship races.
- 1894 The event is called Kiel Week for the first time in press reports. Emperor Wilhelm II is a regular visitor now.
- 1895 Opening of the Kiel Canal, then called Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal during Kiel Week.
- 1907 25th anniversary of Kiel Week. Since then more than 6,000 ships have been racing at the event.
- 1914 New canal locks are opened during Kiel Week. On June 28, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria is murdered in Sarajevo, leading to World War I and interrupting Kiel Week. Between 1914-1918 Kiel Week is not held.
- 1934 Kiel Week becomes an instrument of propaganda for the Nazis.
- 1936 For the first time, Kiel is the location for the sailing contests at the Summer Olympics.
- 1937 Kiel Week is organized by the newly formed Yacht-Club von Deutschland.
- 1940–1946 During World War II, Kiel Week does not happen.
- 1945 The first sailing week after the Second World War is held by the British occupation army under the name "Kiel-Week".
- 1947 A festival week in September is held under the name 'Kiel im Aufbau' ('Kiel in reconstruction').
- * End of June 1948 First Kiel Week after the war.
- September 1948 "Kiel im Aufbau" held for the second time.
- 1949 "Kiel im Aufbau" integrated into Kiel Week.
- 1950 Theodor Heuss is the first President of Germany to visit Kiel Week.
- 1962 Important Scandinavian theatre groups and orchestras set new accents for the cultural part of Kiel Week.
- 1972 For the second time the sailing contests at the Summer Olympics are held in Kiel, finishing with a Tall Ships Parade.
- 1974 The Spiellinie becomes a permanent institution at Kiel Week after the initial success of the Olympic Spielstraße for children in 1972. It is established along the Kiellinie.
- 1982 100 years of Kiel Week celebrations.
- 1994 100th Kiel Week celebrations (during the First and Second World Wars, Kiel Week was suspended); co-operation agreement with boot Düsseldorf.
- 1995 100 years of the Kiel Canal (formerly Kaiser-Wilhelm-Canal) celebrations.
- George von Hase (c.1920). Kiel and Jutland. Skeffington and son Ltd. . Description by a German officer of the visit by a squadron of British warships attending Kiel week in June 1914. Available at Canadian library archive
- Navigating Your Way Around the World's Largest Sailing Event: Germany's Kiel Week (TIME Magazine)
Kiel Travel Guide (About.com)
The world’s largest sailing event: Kiel Week (deutschland.de)
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