The 66th-annual Ohio Swiss Festival begins this Wednesday, September 26, and runs through Saturday, September 29, with plenty of food, entertainment and uniquely-Swiss fun planned for this year’s celebration. (Photo by Stacey Carmany, Tusco TV)
Sugarcreek, Ohio - A beloved celebration of the area’s Swiss heritage and culture is returning this week to Downtown Sugarcreek.
The 66th-annual Ohio Swiss Festival begins this Wednesday, September 26, and runs through Saturday, September 29, with plenty of food, entertainment and uniquely-Swiss fun planned for this year’s celebration.
The festival begins on Wednesday at 6 p.m. with the Little Swiss Miss Contest and ceremonial crowning of this year’s winner and resumes Thursday evening with a big wheel race for area children in grades K-1 and a cheese-eating challenge that’s not for the faint of heart or the lactose intolerant.
Events celebrating the area’s time-honored cheese-making traditions begin Thursday at 7 p.m. in the pavilion with the announcement of this year’s Grand Champion Cheese Maker and People’s Choice winner followed by a public Swiss cheese auction.
A festival favorite - fried Swiss cheese on a stick - will also be available for purchase throughout the four days of the event. There will also be bratwurst and sauerkraut sandwiches, homestyle barbequed chicken and another beloved Swiss Festival treat - the apple fritters served up by the Sugarcreek Mennonite Church.
Closing out the evening on Thursday will be the crowning of the 2019 Swiss Festival Queen. The lucky winner will serve as an ambassador for the Ohio Swiss Festival at events held throughout the state.
The festival continues Friday and Saturday with two full days of live music, food and Swiss-inspired fun.
Weekend highlights include the ceremonial playing of the alphorn on Friday at 2 p.m. and a performance by the players of Alphorn Gruezie on Saturday at 12:30.
Kelly Engstrom is the curator for the Alpine Hills Historical Museum. She says the alphorn originated in the 1300s in the communities bordering the Swiss Alps.
“It’s not exclusively Swiss but it’s iconically Swiss,” she says. “In the 70s it became the official instrument of Switzerland, and the official key is F Sharp.”
Area men and women will also have an opportunity to put their strength and endurance to the test this weekend in a uniquely-Swiss challenge - the Steinstossen, or stone throwing competition. The competition begins on Friday at 7:30, and participants will have five attempts to throw a stone weighing 138 pounds or 75 pounds. Those posting the farthest distance will return to compete again on Saturday at 4:30 and 7 p.m.
Engstrom says the Ohio Swiss festival is one of the only festivals in the nation to host Steinstossen competitions. In addition, she says organizers are also planning to offer Schwingfest demonstrations this year. Schwingfest is a wrestling-style sport that also originated in Switzerland’s cheese-making region.
Other events on tap Friday include the annual Cheese Chase 5K, 10K or 1-mile walk that begins at 8 a.m., and a Kiddie Parade that takes off at 2:05 p.m. Additional events for Saturday include yodeling and Swiss costume contests that begin at noon and Grand Parade that kicks off at 2 p.m.
Attendees will enjoy free live musical entertainment throughout the weekend with performances from Swiss vocalists, polka bands, and much more.
Sugarcreek Marketing Administrator Christine Quickel says this year’s event will feature several acts making their first-ever appearance at the festival.
“We have Dean James and The Treatment. They’re new this year, and Frank Moravcik. He’s new, too, and Kodachrome Babies. I think this is the first year they’re going to be playing here, too,” she says.
Visitors ages 21 and older are invited to stop by the Fire Station during the festival to sample local award-winning wines and cheeses. The area will be open between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Friday and 10:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday.
For the first time this year, the festival will also feature a Craft Beer Tent where adult visitors can sample beers from three area breweries. The tent will be located in the parking lot on the corner of Main Street and Broadway, in front of the Brick Wall Sculpture. Tasting hours are Friday and Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m.
“Each one of the breweries is going to be offering two samples. It’s going to be from Wooly Pig Brewery, the new Hoodletown, which is in Dover, and Millersburg Brewing Company,” Quickel says. “They’re going to be offering 6-ounce samples for $3 a piece... It’s going to be a good way to show off all the local breweries we have around here.”
Festival Committee Chairman Scott Gerber says the event is a unique celebration of the area’s Swiss heritage and cheesemaking traditions as well as the longest continuously running outdoor festival in Ohio.
“We’re very blessed to have it in our own backyard. Our little Swiss Festival is a community event that’s very well supported by our businesses, and it’s kind of a big homecoming for Sugarcreek. Whether you left the area for many, many years, it’s still a homecoming, and a lot of families come back to this little town to celebrate Swiss cheese and the festival being 66 years old,” he says. “It’s kind of a tribute to everybody that started it and those that continue to run it.”
For a complete schedule of events and registration forms, visit www.ohioswissfestival.com.
STACEY CARMANY, TUSCO TV