Lavaca and King William are known as good walking neighborhoods, but did you know that the area is home to a national walking organization?
A year ago, The American Volkssport Association (AVA) — also known as America’s Walking Club — moved its headquarters to 1008 S. Alamo Street (in the house located between Bruno’s and Hot Joy). It was previously located in Universal City, but when it needed to find a new location, it was attracted to the walkability of the Southtown area.
The AVA has nearly 200 local clubs around the United States, including four in San Antonio and others in the Hill Country and going up I-35. These local clubs coordinate their calendars so that there is a walk somewhere in the area almost every weekend.
The walks are a German tradition called volksmarching, which means “people walking.” It started back in the 1960s in Germany. At the time, there were a lot of competitive running events that were open to everybody, but elite athletes kept winning all the medals. There was a need for events where any and all could obtain medals. So noncompetitive walking events started, and they were known for big festivals with a lot of food and beer.
In the mid-1970s a Catholic church deacon from Fredericksburg, Texas, was visiting relatives in Germany. They encouraged him to get into the walking scene to get healthy. He decided to hold a volksmarch in Fredericksburg in 1976, as part of the U.S. Bicentennial celebration. From this small beginning, U.S. volkssports grew. A lot of military people were stationed in Germany and discovered the events, and returned to the U.S. to establish clubs. The AVA was established in Universal City as the headquarters for all the local clubs.
The AVA is part of the International Federation of Popular Sports, or the IVV (which is the acronym for its German name). Volkssports is more than walking. It includes bicycling, swimming, non-motorized boating, cross-country skiing, and more.
I invite you to visit the AVA’s headquarters on South Alamo, generally open throughout the day on Mondays through Thursdays. When you enter the building, you’ll see a mural on the back of the entrance hall. Painted as a donation by a local artist, it depicts people coming together to walk, with the AVA’s logo in the center. Around the walls there are lots of volksmarch medals and awards, displayed along with a few beer steins. If our CEO Henry Rosales is there, chat with him — he’s very knowledgeable about the organization and the events. And there may be a few flyers available describing upcoming local walks.
All local walks have a $3 per person fee. Most regular walkers participate in a program — they get IVV ‘credit’ for each walk and earn certificates, pins, and patches.
If you want to get involved with the organization and join our walks, there are a couple of spots online where you can get information:
The club’s Facebook page provides regular updates on upcoming walks.
America's Walking Club website also includes information on upcoming walks and events.
And of course, you can drop into our office on South Alamo and chat with us about what we have to offer. We’d love to start walking with you!
In next month’s issue of LNF Weekly, I’ll tell you about some of our upcoming major events in the area.
Andy Thomas is the Deputy Director of the American Volkssport Association