Fastnacht activities in a town or village are organized and controlled by the local jester guild (Narrenzunft). The guilds are organized like clubs and only members and their guests may wear the costume and participate. The Fastnacht guilds have one or a few figures that stay the same for years and decades. They don't change every year. Those costumes (called "Häs") and wood-carved masks are hand-made, precious and beautiful to look at. There are a couple of places that keep centuries-old traditions alive, the best known among them is Rottweil. On the other hand, Fastnacht, or in dialect "Fasnet", is a very lively, modern movement. New guilds are founded every year, new figures invented.
The jesters are organized in guilds (Narrenzünfte) which determine the Häs (costume) and the activities. Small villages often have only one guild, thus only one Fastnacht costume everyone wears. In larger villages and towns there may be more guilds - Freiburg, for example, has 35. The oldest guilds, like Villingen, date back to the 16th century.
How many guilds are there in Baden-Württemberg? No one knows, because new ones are founded every year. In 2001 their total number was estimated at 1,200. Sixteen years later, there may be several dozens, if not hundreds, more. New guilds are founded and new Fastnacht figures are invented all the time. Certain artists make their living with the creation of new Häs figures. Other people just use their own imagination. Fastnacht is booming.
The jester guilds are active all year round, not only on Fastnacht. They hold meetings, offer activities for kids and youths, organize hikes and trips just like any other club (without the Häs, of course) and play an important role in the social life of the villages.