The fair on Tuesday
Since time immemorial, the ‘Grote Kermis’ of Zottegem, which falls on the Sunday after August 15th, has been celebrated exuberantly.
Coming from the surrounding municipalities, people came to the center to celebrate ‘Halfoogst’, especially on Tuesday when the Grote Prijs Stad Zottegem, formerly known as the Tistaert Prize and a race for professional cyclists, is taking place.
Zottegem has always been a city that loves cycling.
There were 2 velodromes in Zottegem and there lived a lot of good cyclist here.
Presumably the Zottegem city council organized the first fair Tuesday race in 1933.
It was a bull’s-eye and during the next Half-harvest Fair (1935) a professional race was organized, for the time being still on Sunday: the ‘Groote Prijs der gemeente Sottegem en der Sigaretten Belga’.
Later renamed ‘de Dokter Tistaertprijs’.
Impressive honorary list
From the outset, the Zottegem competition could count on an impressive list of participants. The following half century would not be any different.
All the big (Belgian) riders put on the foot straps in the Egmont city: Briek Schotte, Kamiel ‘Boerken’ Beeckman, Cerami, Arthur de Cabooter, Van Springel, José De Cauwer, Jan Raas, Merckx, Godefroot, De Vlaeminck, Criquelion, Eddy Planckaert, Sean Kelly, Van Impe, Ludo Peters, Musseeuw, Van Petegem, Steels en Vanderaerden.
The difficult eighties
At the end of the 1980s it also became difficult for the organizers of the ‘Grote Prijs Stad Zottegem’ to get an attractive and affordable field of participants at the start.
Yet the organizers managed to keep their head above water. What’s more, in 1999 the new board took a highly professional approach and managed to upgrade the ‘Dokter Tistaertprijs’ to a UCI class 1.4 competition.
The competition was later upgraded to a prestigious UCI 1.1
The atmosphere of the ‘Kermiskoers’
Those who have never experienced it before, can hardly imagine the ambiance of this unique cycling race in a genuine fairground atmosphere.
The tone is set by the bustle of the fair, which starts erupting in the city center from Friday evening, with absolute highlights on Saturday and Sunday evenings and firework on Monday.
Anyone who thought that the ‘Zottegemnaar’ was finally partyed out did not know these Burgundians.
The day of “De Koers”
Early in the morning the market vendors display their wares in the side streets and as the fairground attractions start moving again, the first supporters descend to the ‘Egmontstad’.
A true lover of the ‘Grote Prijs Stad Zottegem’, first sniff the fair air, drink a pint or two / three and eat a hamburger or a hot-dog, before the drivers get their massage.
After all, the course is only started around half past twelve in the afternoon.
The ‘Grote Prijs Stad Zottegem’ is not only a sporting event at a high level, the competition definitely deserves a place in the tourist events of the province of East Flanders.
Nowhere does top sport and folk entertainment go so strongly together.