Swiss wine festival occurs every 20 years

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- The Fete des Vignerons, or Festival of the Winegrowers, a celebration held once about every 20 years, is set for July 29 through Aug. 15 in the lakeside town of Vevey.

Organizers of the event tout it as being not simply a folk festival, but rather an "event of artistic intensity." It was held for the first time in 1783. This year marks the 11th celebration of the festival.

The fountain of Lake Geneva Daily theatrical performances are created by the Swiss theater producer Francois Rochaix.

Rochaix is director of the Institute of Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

Each show centers around traditional themes such as the four seasons, the wine growers labor and Greek and Roman mythological figures such as Bacchus, Ceres and Pales, who have inspired the celebration. Four parades are performed by professional artists in addition to more than 4,000 amateur participants.

Each parade includes music, dancing, singing and traditional folklore performed outdoors on the Market Place, in the heart of Vevey and along the lake shore. About 50,000 are expected to attend the festival, which coincides with the solar eclipse that will occur during one of the shows on Aug. 11.

The festival is organized by the Brotherhood of Winegrowers of Vevey, which began in the early 17th century. In those days, experts from the Brotherhood would evaluate the work of the vine tenders. The festival was held five times each century to fete the group.

Today, the Brotherhood's aim is to promote wine cultivation and improve its methods. The Vevey Tourist Office is offering tickets for 90-minute walking tours of Vevey. Tickets are $10.

The museum tour visits the Nestle Food Museum, the Historical and Winegrowers Fraternity Museum, the Fine Arts Museum, the Swiss Camera Museum and the Swiss Games Museum.

The Vevey tour visits the Russian Orthodox Church, the city's old town, its flowered lakeshore and other sights. Half-day tours are also available and include wine-tasting at vineyards and a cruise on Lake Geneva. Tickets are $15.

Full-day tours are offered for Geneva, Gstaad and a cogwheel train trip from Montreux to Rochers-de-Naye. Tickets are $30.

The tourist office offers a list of hotel accommodations with rates for individuals or groups as well as passes for local, regional or national travel via rail, boat, cable car and buses. Vevey Tourist Office, Phone: (011) 41 21 922-2020

Fax: (011) 41 21 922-2025. E-mail: [email protected]. Web: www.fetedesvignerons.ch

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