Geneva celebrates US Independence Day

Geneva's US community is putting on celebrations as lavish as the traditional fireworks at the White House Keystone

Americans are today marking their national holiday with fireworks, music and apple pie. The biggest 4th of July celebrations outside the US are reckoned to be in Geneva, which has a sizeable expatriate community.

This content was published on July 4, 2000

"The Geneva celebrations are like the celebrations you have in any American town," says Scott Andersen, a US lawyer who has lived in Geneva for the past six years. Andersen's bluegrass band, Fast Forward, is one of the musical highlights of the evening.

"The 4th July is very special to me - and it's something I want my kids to experience as they grow up," he told swissinfo.

The American International Club in Geneva began the celebrations back in 1952. They've grown to become one of the important dates in the city's social calendar, which is already packed with festivals and celebrations.

The organisers claim it is now "second only to the Geneva Festival". Last year over 50,000 people came to listen to American music, sample cuisine from the other side of the Atlantic, and generally let their hair down.

This year attractions include a Native American village, a martial arts demonstration, a fireworks display and the obligatory marching bands.

Joining the 10,000 strong American community in Geneva are many Swiss who come to the Bout du Monde sports ground to get that all-American feeling. In fact, many of the musical acts and organisers are not American at all.

"The team putting on the show are completely international," says Keith Kentopp, who has been involved in the event for some 20 years.

"There are over 100 volunteers, and many of them are Swiss and French. In fact most of our meetings are conducted in French," says Kentopp, who will be the chief announcer on the big day. "The French 14th July is very low-key, so our celebration has become a great public party that we put on for our hosts here in Geneva."

Kentopp's involvement began when, as an official with the World Scout Movement, he was asked to provide cub scouts to raise the Stars and Stripes, instead of the US marines who had been used until then.

There are a number of focal points for the American community in Geneva - the church, the American International Club, the American Women's Club, for example. But Kentopp says there are very few times in the year when the whole community gets together to celebrate their Americanness.

"It does provide a nice link with home," he says. "For my kids it's great to have a day when they can learn about the founding of the United States and about its relationship with the world. And, for one day a year, it's great to be able to dress up as cowboys."

by Roy Probert

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