A Taste of Swiss Heritage

More music on tap for
29th annual Swiss Wine Festival

By Don Ward

VEVAY, Ind. – This small, Ohio River town provides a peaceful respite for residents and visitors throughout the year, with the exception of one week in late August. That’s when townspeople, family, friends and visitors converge on Paul Ogle Park on Vevay’s riverfront to celebrate the town’s Swiss heritage.
The Swiss Wine Festival has been organized and operated each year since 1968 by a legion of local volunteers. The widely popular event features four days of sporting activities, wine judging and tasting, amusement rides, musical groups, folk dancing, riverboat cruises, arts and crafts and commercial booths, a flea market, princess contest and, of course, a parade. There’s also the wonderful food – strudel, weiner schnitzel, bratwurst and german potato salad.

Since it’s beginning, the festival has become a top draw throughout the area. Mike Danner served as the event’s first chairman and remains active. The festival is incorporated and operated by a board, with any profits used to perpetuate the event.
“It’s the one time of the year when everyone comes down to the river to have a good time,” said Ann Mulligan, director of the Switzerland County Welcome Center, headquarters for the Aug. 24-27 event.
This year, three Indiana wineries plan to take part in the “Gala Wine Judging” and wine tasting pavilion. In addition, “amateur applications” are available at the Welcome Center for homemade wines to be judged.
The wines will be judged Aug. 19 at the Schenck Mansion, 206 W. Turnpike St., Vevay. Tickets for the event are $15 and can be reserved in advance by calling the Welcome Center or be purchased at the door.
The historic mansion was built in 1874 by Benjamin Franklin Schenck, the wealthy “hay king” of the steamboat era. It was designed by Cincinnati architect George Hum-phreys. Two years ago, Jerry and Lisa Fisher bought the house with plans to convert it into a bed and breakfast. It should be open by October, they said.
Using the slogan, “Come Enjoy a Taste of Our Heritage,” organizers will set up a wine tasting pavilion on the festival grounds, where visitors can sample and purchase wines from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Wine tasting tickets are 50 cents each.
Beer connoisseurs, meanwhile, can enjoy their favorite beverages at the Beer Garden, where live entertainment is scheduled Friday and Saturday nights. The Beer Garden opens Thursday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
More bands scheduled for this year’s festival
For this 29th annual event, organizers have allotted more money for entertainment, so the schedule is full of all types of musical groups. The list includes country, rock, bluegrass, Dixieland and folk bands.
Admission to the festival is $2 adults and $1 for children ages 5-12. Under 5 is free. This year, however, organizers have waived the admission charges for Thursday night to help kick off the event.
Thursday’s lineup includes a talent contest, Community Grape Stomp and two princess contests for girls ages 14-16 and 17-21.
Edelweiss Princess
to stay busy at festival
The Edelweiss Teen Princess Contest is for girls ages 14-16, with the winner to receive a $250. The winner of the Edelweiss Princess contest will receive $500 and become eligible to compete in the Indiana State Festival Association Scholarship Pageant for a $1,500 scholarship.
The Swiss Wine Festival is a member of the Indiana Stage Festivals Association, which promotes the growth of festivals within the state by providing seminars for festival organizers.
Both Edelweiss princesses will represent the festival throughout the rest of the week by presenting trophies to event winners.
Friday will get the festival off to a musical start with live entertainment beginning at 4 p.m. (slow time) on the Main Stage. Cruises on the Dottie G will begin at noon and run throughout the weekend. A 3K River Mini Run will take place Friday evening, along with yet another Grape Stomp.
Following an invigorating 5K River Walk/Run on Saturday morning, the Grand Festival Parade will step off at 10 a.m. and wind through the streets of town. The day will be filled with all sorts of musical entertainment, sporting events and folk traditions, such as stein tossing and grape stomping.
Folk dancers will perform in the afternoon and evening, some inviting the crowd onto the dance floor to take part in the traditional “chicken dance.” If you don’t know the chicken dance, you’ll soon learn it after hearing dozens of rounds of the addictive European favorite tune.
Around dusk on Saturday, the skies over the river town will light up with a fireworks show, sponsored by the Belterra Resort and Casino.
Sunday’s schedule will feature more music and folk dancing, also sporting events and a high energy cheerleading contest among area high schools.
Don’t forget the Duck Race at $2 a duck with the winner to receive $250.
Amusement rides to add excitement for youths
For the third year, amusement rides are being provided by DP Amusements of Newburgh, Ind. They feature the hurricane, scrambler, giant slide and something for all ages. Advance ride tickets are available at the Welcome Center for three tickets for $2.50.
Tickets during the festival are 10 tickets for $10 or $1.25 each. Each ride requires only one ticket.
There’s something for everyone at the Swiss Wine Festival. And don’t be surprised if you see lots of lederhosen and lace, since many people come dressed in traditional Swiss wardrobe.
And don’t worry, after a few glasses of Indiana wine or a few mugs of German beer, the chicken dance is a piece of cake.

• Applications for these events and booth rentals are available at the Welcome Center, 209 Ferry St. Or call (812) 427-3237 or 1-800-HELLO-VV. Pick Up Your Free Copy of RoundAbout Madison for the official 16-Page Swiss Wine Festival & Souvenir Guide!

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