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Swiss festival crowns best winegrowers

Switzerland’s biggest festival, the Fête des Vignerons or Winegrowers’ Festival, was formally opened on Thursday with the crowning of the best winegrowers.

This content was published on July 29, 1999 - 16:32

Switzerland’s biggest festival, the Fête des Vignerons or Winegrowers’ Festival, was formally opened on Thursday with the crowning of the best winegrowers.

The event is staged in the town of Vevey, on Lake Geneva, and is only held once per generation. It is by far the biggest and most spectacular festival and is characterised by a colourful pageantry of music, song and dance, involving well over 5,000 local participants in specially-designed costumes.

Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss -- addressing 14,500 spectators on this first day fo the festival -- that the kind of creativity and cooperation displayed by the festival could serve as a model for the country as a whole, not least in view of the political, social and economic challenges faced by modern Switzerland.

Dreifuss also talked about the origins of the festival and praised the hard and labour-intensive work of the winegrowers.

The origins of the Fête des Vignerons are in the 13th century, when monks from Haut-Crêt in the district of Oron, gave awards to their wine growers to encourage excellence in wine production.

Today, a brotherhood of winegrowers and their experts evaluate the work of the field hands who tend the vineyards. For this year’s festival, that evaluation process lasted from 1995 till 1998.

The top five vine tenders were honoured and crowned the “Kings of the Festival” on Thursday.

A newcomer in the gallery of characters of the Fête des Vignerons is “Arlevin,” who is dressed as a kind of descendent of the notorious Harlequin.

The new figure represents the devoted field hands and it is to highlight their presence in the most playful manner, according to the festival’s artistic director, Francois Rochaix.


From staff and wire reports.

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