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Record number of visitors flock to Lake Parade

Geneva's Lake Parade attracted over 450,000 ravers

(Keystone)

Geneva's largest techno event, the Lake Parade, has attracted a record number of visitors. Between 450,000 and 500,000 ravers attended the event on Saturday, the highest number in its five-year history.

Saturday's Lake Parade also sets Geneva's annual summer celebration, the Fêtes de Genève, in motion. Over the next 10 days, the event will offer various attractions for an estimated 1.5 million visitors.

This year, the party, one of the biggest in Switzerland, has a distinctly tropical flavour, with Tahiti as the central theme. For the people of Geneva, it is a great time not to go on holiday.

All the usual highlights will be on view: the massive fireworks displays - among the largest in the world - which opened and will close the festival; the all-night techno party that is the Lake Parade; and the waiters' race, in which the employees of the city's restaurants, bars and hotels, carrying trays of drinks, compete to be the first across the line.

But there will be some novelties, too. These include the rare and spectacular sight of a joint aerobatics display by the Swiss and French military patrol teams, and a Tropical Village, where the people of Geneva can fool themselves into thinking they are somewhere a little more exotic.

Holiday at home

"People who stay in Geneva for the festival also want to feel as though they're on holiday," says Marc Fassbind of the festival's executive committee.

To that end, the organisers have made Tahiti the featured theme at this year's festival. Lake Geneva will feel more like the South Pacific, with plenty of Polynesian music, dancing, food and crafts on display. The acclaimed Tahitian music and dance group, O Tahiti E, will entertain festival-goers.

"We want this year's Fêtes de Genève to have a really tropical atmosphere," Fassbind explains.

During the 10 days, the city - and especially the parts best known to tourists - is transformed. The area along both banks of the lake is closed to traffic and becomes an enormous bustling festival area, with fairground rides, street theatre and food stalls.

"The Fêtes de Genève is first and foremost something for the people of Geneva. It's a great way for them to see their city in a new light," Fassbind says.

"But of course, it appeals to tourists as well, and many of them plan their trip in order to be here at that time," he tells swissinfo.

The festival's fame is clearly growing. Once it was a three-day event; today it is spread over ten. Just five years ago, 300,000 visitors attended the festival; last year, that many people took part in the Lake Parade alone.

Special trains

This year, that figure looks likely to be dwarfed. The Federal Railways are laying on three special techno-trains from Zurich, Basel and Brig - complete with reduced fares and DJs - to bring ravers to the lakeside.

But the festival will not only cater to younger music lovers. Among the musical highlights sure to appeal to an older audience are the Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Magic Platters and the Elvis Presley impersonator, Ian Massera, who, in keeping with the Pacific theme, will be recreating the 1973 concert-film "Aloha from Elvis".

There is a populist approach even for lovers of classical music. The Grand Casino will host a concert featuring Holst's Planets Suite, as well as works by Wagner and Strauss.

"There will be something to please every taste," says the festival's new director, Denis Tauss.

"We want to bring pleasure to people of every age and every nationality," he says.

But the fireworks remain the biggest attraction. Some 1,200 projectiles will go up in smoke, at a cost of SFr500,000.

The immense scale of the displays is magnified by the pyrotechnics' reflection in the lake. The fireworks events are so prized there is now a website that shows pictures from past Fêtes de Genève displays.

"It as though the whole city comes down to the lake. There is a very special atmosphere," Fassbind says.

by Roy Probert


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