Felicity Long
Felicity Long

Will travelers hop on a plane for a great glass of wine? They might if the tipple includes a hearty dose of festive culture. This year, Switzerland is going one better with the Fete des Vignerons, set to take place in the Lake Geneva (Vaud) region from July 18 to Aug. 11.

To describe this once-in-a-generation event as living theater is an understatement. In fact, the pag-eant was recently named by Unesco to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage and will boast per-formances by literally thousands of local actors and musicians depicting life in this wine-growing region as it was in the 18th century.

A poster from the Fete des Vignerons in 1905.
A poster from the Fete des Vignerons in 1905.

The spectacle, which takes place in Vevey, is being organized by the Confrerie des Vignerons (the Brotherhood of Winegrowers), an organization that has roots going back to the Middle Ages. In fact, the first pageant took place in 1797; the most recent one in 1999. 

Some 20,000 spectators are expected to attend each of the 20 performances in an open-air arena in Vevey's Place du Marche, a venue that boasts a backdrop of Lake Geneva, the Alps and the Unesco-designated vineyards of the Lavaux Region.

The theme of the festivities this year revolves around a year in the life of a vineyard and will feature more than 1,200 singers and musicians and some 5,500 costumed actors, all of whom are residents of Vevey and the surrounding area. 

The show will be directed by Swiss theater and opera director Daniele Finzi Pasca, who wrote and directed "Corteo" for Cirque du Soleil and directed the closing ceremonies of the Turin Winter Olympics in 2006 and the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

Of course, the fun won't be confined to the arena. Expect the spectacle to spill into the city of Vevey, located about 16 miles from Lausanne, with street performances, pop-up food stands showcasing Vaudois culinary specialties and, of course, local wine.

Because the Fete only takes place every 20 years or so, local tourism offices don't even have a ballpark figure on how many attendees are expected from the U.S., but judging from the buzz be-ing generated stateside about the event, it could be a substantial number.

That said, there is still hotel availability for the festival in Vevey and nearby Lausanne and Mon-treux, but interested travelers shouldn't dawdle. This is especially true for visitors who would like accommodations right in Vevey, which would place them within walking distance of the perfor-mance, street stalls and wine caves. 

Travelers can also stay in Lausanne, which is about 15 minutes from Vevey by train. Either way, there is no need for a car to enjoy the event.

"The Fete des Vignerons 2019 is more than just an incredible spectacle," said Francois Michel, vice president of the Vaud canton tourism office. "It will highlight the attractions of Vevey and its surrounding cities and towns and emphasize its unique gastronomy and wine," he said.

The festival will also shine a spotlight on area hotels and restaurants as well as activities and attrac-tions such as lakeside promenades, belle epoque lake steamers, Chillon Castle and Chaplin's World museum, he said.

Information on tickets, accommodations and packages that bundle both is available on the Lake Geneva region website at https://www.region-du-leman.ch/en/.

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