The Swiss Wine Festival was the brain-child of a few local business leaders who wanted to give a little something back to the community in which they lived. They also wanted to provide local clubs and organizations with a venue to raise money for their projects. The festival was able to do both. It became an event that not only gave the community a chance to get together and have some fun, but it also provided an opportunity for outsiders to get a better view of what a great community we have in Vevay, Indiana.
The first Swiss Wine Festival was held in 1968. It had a flea market on the Courthouse lawn, grape stomping, and steintossen. Six years and many thousands of people later, the festival was proclaimed “too big” and was discontinued. A local event called “The Patchwork Fair” took its place for five years.
The festival was reborn in 1979 as the “Swiss Alpine Festival” with emphasis on family involvement, a fenced-in festival site, and an admission charge. A clean, safe, and popular new festival was begun. The Alpine theme included a Swiss Costume contest, the blowing of the Alp horn, a parade, arts and crafts exhibits, and polka dancing. A tour of historic homes was also held.
A few years later, the community decided to once again pay homage to its winemaking history and added a “Wine Tent” featuring Indiana wineries. The festival was called the “Swiss Wine Festival” again.
In 1997, the Festival was held for the first time in the Paul W. Ogle Riverfront Park. In addition to traditional events, it features a fireworks display over the river, a chartered paddle wheeler for riverboat cruises, and a duck race.
As the festival has grown, man of the events and activities are ran by local clubs or organizations and these organizations then get funding for their involvement. The Swiss Wine Festival now takes it place as a valuable event for local people as well as visitors, focusing on Vevay and Switzerland County’s cultural heritage. All in all the Swiss Wine Festival is an event created by the community, ran by the community and supports the community as a real coming together of our local talents and interests.
In 2007 the Swiss Wine Festival took another step forward by hiring a part-time coordinator and opening a festival office.
About Vevay, Indiana
In March of 1796, John James Dufour left his home in Vevey, Switzerland to settle in the United States of America. His intention was to continue the family tradition of grape cultivation and wine making, while establishing a new home for this brothers and sisters.
He first settled in Kentucky and formed a vineyard association with some citizens of Lexington, including Henry Clay. His first vineyard was planted in 1799 along the Kentucky River in Jessamine County.
Due to poor weather conditions and vine disease, the Kentucky settlement became divided in 1801. Dufour began looking for another place for his vineyard and family. In 1802, having found the perfect location, he petitioned congress for the lands along the Ohio River between Hunt’s Creek and Indian Creek in what would later become Indiana.
The “New Switzerland” vineyard was planted and the first wine was produced in 1806 or 1807. Although the quantity was limited the quality of wine was high. Several barrels of wine from the first harvest were loaded on horseback and delivered to Washington, D.C. where it was served by President Thomas Jefferson who pronounced it to be “good”. The vineyards were enlarged every spring so that the bearing vines became more numerous and the quantity of wine increased. The vintage of 1808 yielded 800 gallons and the vintage of 1809 yielded 1,200 gallons. The Dufours continued to produce their wine until the 1850’s.
One of John James Dufour’s sons became something of an expert on vine cultivation. He wrote “The Vine Dresser’s Guide,” which became the bible for grape cultivation in this country. This guide was still being used well into the 1900’s. The original copy written in French still exists today and is owned by the Switzerland County Historical Society.
Vevay, Switzerland County celebrated it sesquicentennial in 1963. Dignitaries from Vevey, Switzerland (including the mayor) attended events celebrating this milestone. The success of this celebration gave rise to the annual Swiss Wine Festival held every August.