Club History

Excerpted from Sep-Oct 2019 Footsteps newsletter:

What’s in a Name? – by Lee Frantz

Ever wonder about the name (NWFT)? How about the American Volkssport Association (AVA) or the big umbrella organization Internationaler Volkssportverband e.V. (International Federation of Popular Sports)? [I] got . . . thinking about history, language and how Volkssporting got to where we are today in Nebraska and Iowa.           . . .  So, Wander is walk(ing), and Freunde is friends and with Nebraska and Trailblazers we get our name. And as voted on at a club meeting a few years ago, we are sometimes the Nebraska Trailblazers or even just Trailblazers to keep us from the mouthful the state recognizes as our legal name—Nebraska Wander Freunde Trailblazers.             

From the book History of Volkswalking in the U.S.A. 1976‒1989 by Charlene Agne-Traub (1991), Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., Dubuque, IA , I paraphrase the following:

The German term Volkssport literally means a sport of the people. Anyone of any age can participate in walking (volksmarching), bicycling (radfahren), swimming (volksschwimmen), or cross-country skiing (skiwandern). In 1963 Volkssporting evolved from competitive public races, sponsored by German sporting clubs, into peoples’ race. In 1968, after five years of winners, and losers and many injuries, six clubs in Germany, two in Switzerland, and one club each in Liechtenstein and Austria banded together and changed the rules to allow everyone to participate and be a winner. Eventually this organization became the (IVV) Internationaler Volkssportverband e.V. (International Federation of Popular Sports.

Volkssporting made its debut in the U.S. on June 12-13, 1976 in Fredericksburg, TX. Following a trip to the Vatican, a Fredericksburg priest, Rev. Mr. Kenn Knopp, had visited his elderly aunt and uncle (who loved to walk) in Germany. Rev. Knopp was in his 40’s and overweight and his aunt and uncle encouraged him to walk; showing him a poster about IVV the international volkssport organization and referred him to the IVV President Mr. Gunther Hartmetz. These men communicated and eventually a walk was sanctioned by IVV to celebrate the German heritage of Fredericksburg and the American Bicentennial (1776-1976). Kenn then returned to Germany, learned more about the IVV organization, and in April 1976 chartered a U.S. organization called the International Federation of Peoples’ Sports-USA (IFP-USA).              

In 1979, with more states added, a newsletter (The American Wanderer) started, and more and more veterans returning from duty in Germany joining the organization, the first national convention was held in Dayton, OH. The purpose of the convention was to 1) ratify a constitution, 2) elect national officers, 3) consider a name change, and 4) fulfill requirements to become a national member under IVV. After much discussion, the name American Volkssport Association (AVA) was selected to better reflect the entire country. With IVV officials in attendance in Dayton, an application for membership was immediately drafted and IVV voted AVA into the Federation before the convention ended. AVA was born.

So, there is a German connection, but how did we get to our membership in the American organization? In June 1979 the Nebraska Wander Freunde Trailblazers Club was chartered from the AVA and signed by our president and secretary. The charter reads as follows:

“This is to certify that, NEBRASKA WANDER FREUNDE TRAILBLAZERS has been duly recognized as Nebraska (club number) 1 AVA (club number) 16 in the AMERICAN VOLKSSPORT ASSOCIATION and the International Federation of Peoples’ Sports, IVV, attested this 25th day of June in the year 1979.”

Historically, NWFT is an off-shoot from the Omaha Walking Club (OWC). Don Steele, an eventual club president, had been stationed in the military in Bremerhaven, Germany and volksmarched there. He brought up the idea of a club to the OWC. Don had help organizing our club from Gerry and Mary McKay who had visited their son in Germany in the late 1970s. Their son had taken them on volksmarches every weekend. That July (1979) we were also recognized by the State of Nebraska and our club was granted its Articles of Incorporation (adapted from the “NWFT Abridged History” compiled by Jim Goeltz, 2018©).

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