Have you ever stomped grapes?

Did you know that Vevay, Indiana (Switzerland County) annually hosts the Swiss Wine Festival?  This year is the 42st annual Swiss Wine Festival. Held at Paul Ogle Riverfront Park and organizers are pulling out all the corks for this year’s event, Thursday-Sunday, August 22-25, 2013.

The Swiss Wine Festival is a four-day celebration commemorating Switzerland County’s winemaking roots and bragging rights as the “Birthplace of the First Successful Commercial Winery in the United States.”  A little quick history for you:  (From Wikipedia – topic “American Wines”)

The first commercial vineyard and winery in the United States was established by an act of the Kentucky General Assembly on November 21, 1799. The vinedresser for the vineyard was John James Dufour formerly of Vevay, Switzerland. The vineyard was located overlooking the Kentucky River in Jessamine County, Kentucky and was named First Vineyard by Dufour on November 5, 1798. The vineyard’s current address in 5800 Sugar Creek Pike, Nicholasville, Kentucky. The first wine from the First Vineyard was consumed by the subscribers at John Postelthwaite’s house on March 21, 1803. Two 5 gallon oak casks of wine were taken to President Thomas Jefferson in Washington, D.C. in February 1805. The vineyard continued until 1809 when a killing freeze in May destroyed the crop and many vines at the First Vineyard. The Dufour family then relocated to Vevay, Indiana after the abandonment of the First Vineyard.

There are traditional aspects of the festival – a Wine Tasting Pavilion, the Midwest Championship Grape Stomp, arts & crafts, amusement rides, parade, riverboat cruises, 5K run/walk, cheerleading competition, live entertainment, and more.  There are twelve Indiana wineries are offering samplings of their award-winning wines, with staff on hand to answer questions about their yield.  Participating wineries include Buck Creek, Carousel, Chateau De Pique, Ertel Cellars, French Lick, Grateful Goat Vineyard, Harmony, Indian Creek, Lanthier, Ridge, Windy Knoll, and Winzerwald.  In addition to the wine, there will be a variety of food choices and entertainment.

Admission is $5 per day on Friday-Sunday. Children 5-12 years are admitted for $3, with under age five free. Parking is $5 per vehicle. Festival times are Friday, August. 23, 3 pm-2 am; Saturday, August. 24, 10:30 am-2 am; and Sunday, August. 25, from 10:30 am-6:30 pm.  The Wine Pavilion is open Friday 3-10 pm, Saturday 11 am-10 pm, and Sunday 12-6 pm. and has an additional $15 admission fee which includes wine samples and a souvenir wine glass.

The Swiss Wine Festival has been listed as the 4th best food festival in Indiana by the Best of Indiana and is a Top 10 event in Indiana by Top Events USA.  Saturday’s Festivities began on Saturday morning at 10:00 am with the Grand Festival Parade in downtown Vevay. Marching bands, floats, and local and visitors line the streets of Main Street to kick-off the celebration Switzerland County-style.

Additional activities, performers, and events can be found on the Swiss Wine Festival website,  http://swisswinefestival.org/, or call 812-427-9463. Reservations for riverboat cruises can be made by calling 800-435-5688. Information on lodging, local businesses and tourist activities can be found at http://switzcotourism.com/ or by calling Switzerland County Tourism at 812-427-3237.

I grew up half way between Vevay and Madison – Dad went to Vevay High School (now Switzerland County High School) and Mom went to Madison – they met at the old Vevay Drive-in that they took us to as kids so my family life has always revolved around what was happening in Madison or Vevay.  I can remember that when my grandma and her siblings were still with us, it was a very big deal that everyone went to the sister or brother that had the house “in town” to watch the Wine Festival parade…click here for the schedule, you might find it worth a trip!

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Vicki Reed

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