The 12th performance of the Fête des Vignerons runs from July 18-August 11, 2019.
It started recently trending on some of the Swiss sites and social media I follow… “What is the Fête des Vignerons?” I asked myself? All I had to do was read that it was a grand Swiss festival that has been taking place since 1797 every 20 to 25 years (or once a generation) and that it had been declared an “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO—the first (in 2016) of two Swiss traditions to be given this status. I was in. After all, this might be my only chance. Having arrived in Switzerland in the early 2000s, I had missed the last festival (1999) and might not be around for the next one possibly in 2039.
The Fête des Vignerons is a celebration of the country’s winegrowers. The main show takes place in a large purpose-built arena and tells the story of the stages of vineyard life from spring until harvest focusing on themes of nature. All this is done through music—orchestral, choral, jazz and traditional—recitations, dance and other theatrical performances. During the course of the show the winegrowers are honored for their excellence by the Confrérie des Vignerons (a brotherhood/society of winegrowers).
This 25-day festival takes place in Vevey—the town where it all started in 1797—situated on the northern banks of Lake Geneva in the Lavaux region famous for the UNESCO terraced vineyards. Aside from being a major wine-producing area, Vevey is part of the region known as the “Swiss Riviera” and is the headquarters of Nestlé and birthplace of Francois-Louis Cailler (the famous Swiss chocolatier).
The festival is organized by the Confrérie des Vignerons—a society that may have roots as far back as 1647, but whose objective was and still is to improve wine production quality, rank the work done so that vineyard owners were/are informed of how their vineyards were/are doing. They began this objective in the 1770s, with rankings taking place every three years, and made a public ceremony of it—recognizing and rewarding winegrowers and workers for their workmanship and pursuit of excellence—in 1797.
The public ceremony was so successful it grew over the years adding and featuring specially written/composed librettos and musical scores, and by the 20th century, the audience grew to be so large that it evolved into the major theatrical event it is today. With a website and tickets now available online for the first time, the worldwide reach is expected to give this unique Swiss festival an increasingly international audience.
Aside from the main show, the town is alive each day with parades, musical entertainment, cultural demonstrations, street performances, food and drink stands and the sale of local products. The festival will feature over 5,000 participants and can seat 20,000 spectators a day in the arena in the main square of Vevey’s old town.
Tickets have been selling since last year, but as far as I know, they are still available. Prices range from CHF 80 to premium seats at CHF 360. Most shows are in the evening 21:00-23:30 with a few taking place in the morning. The show is the same every day with variations that highlight the specific culture of the cantons and regions of Switzerland.
You can also download the app from the app store onto your smart phone or tablet.
With history, ceremony, theatrics and participation in something so unique and so deeply Swiss—well, who wants to wait another 20 years when I can attend this one in 145 days, 11 hours, 5 minutes 52 seconds (as of this writing…time will have elapsed from writing to posting.)
Visit: https://www.fetedesvignerons.ch/en/ to find out more and to book tickets.
We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to learn more about our activities and excursions, visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/