For wonderful taste, touch, sight, sound, and scent, the Ohio Swiss Festival is hard to beat
by Jennifer Kneuss
Each fall season, a lively and colorful festival takes place in the streets of the normally quiet village of Sugarcreek, tucked alongside Route 39 on the ‘Amish Country Highway.’ The Ohio Swiss Festival, which has been a cultural celebration of the Swiss immigrant descendants of the area for decades, has become an event that is known worldwide –visitors from all over the world flock to the village each year to see what the excitement is all about.
“For me, the Swiss Festival represents an opportunity to visit a community that embodies its Swiss heritage while allowing guests to taste and touch all that is Swiss,” said Dee Grossman, director of the Tuscarawas County Convention Bureau.
Indeed, there is plenty to taste as well as touch at the festival – and the other senses are fully engaged as well, as red, black, and white contrast traditional costuming, with colorful and intricate embroidery, is everywhere. The strands of polka music are standard here, although other tunes can be heard also. The deep, resonating call of the alphorn must be heard in person in order to fully appreciate the depth of its beauty; the same goes for the Swiss choirs that take their place on the beautiful main stage, which is painted in the spirit of the original Swiss Alps. Many of the village’s shops and businesses are adorned with the gingerbread style trim of the Old Country, and several also have beautifully hand-painted murals that sport tiny moving figures for those who look closely.
And taste? Ah, the power of cheese…Swiss cheese, that is. The area is famous for the ‘holey’ nutty goodness of the cheese that has been made by artisans for hundreds of years and whose secrets have been passed down from generation to generation. Local grapes are bountiful, and produce delectable local wines that have won awards all over. But at the Ohio Swiss Festival, guests can taste almost any variety of wine and/or cheeses. No need to travel to far away contests, for here in the legendary wine and cheese tent visitors can purchase as many of these high quality area products as they wish. While at the festival, try fried Swiss cheese on a stick and the locally made, hot from the fryer apple fritters that fly out of the tent faster than they can be produced.
“Visitors should not miss this event. Where else will you see the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock in full working order; Swiss cheese at every corner; the Steinstossen and the Little Swiss Miss all in a Swiss-themed community?” said Grossman.
The Steinstossen Grossman referred to is a repeat of an ancient rock throwing contest – actually, more of a boulder than a rock. Both men and women compete over two days to see who can throw the massive stone the furthest. Don’t miss out on the yodeling, either. The Saturday morning yodeling contest is worth showing up for.
The Ohio Swiss Festival is also known for its parades. One of the most whimsical is Friday’s Kiddie Parade, where young Swiss descendants don traditional garb and costume their dogs, cats, ponies, iguanas, goats, birds, and almost any other pet imaginable for a lively and sometimes highly unpredictable trek down the big hill while onlookers clap and cheer for their favorites. Saturday’s Antique Car and Grand Parade is famous for its multiple and high quality entries. Vintage vehicles, horses, lavish floats, clowns, bands, and plenty of Swiss-costumed characters take part, much to the delight of the standing room only crowds.
Among the festivities is a cheese eating contest; of course, it’s a pound of Swiss cheese that contestants will be gobbling down in their attempt to set a new record. People’s Choice and Grand Champion Cheesemaker awards, as well as the choosing of a new Little Swiss Miss by the drawing of the red rose and a Queen’s Contest are all on the schedule.
The 60th annual 2012 Ohio Swiss Festival will be held Sept. 28 and 29, with pre-festival activities taking place the 26th and 27th.
The Ohio Swiss Festival – Tuscarawas County’s flavorful and fun celebration of the cultural tradition and heritage that brought our forefathers to the beautiful, rolling hills of the valley. For more information, visit www.villageofsugarcreek.com/ohioswissfest.