2007 Swiss Wine Festival sees large crowds, hot weather, lots of activities

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The 2007 Swiss Wine Festival began last Thursday evening with temperatures soaring near 100-degrees; and after another sweltering day on Friday; some relief came on Saturday in the form of some afternoon showers; and Sunday events were held under nearly perfect conditions.

But the weather was only a small part of this year’s Swiss Wine Festival, as high temperatures didn’t mean small crowds. Festival attenders came to the Paul Ogle Riverfront Park each of the four days of the festival, enjoying the events and entertainment along the riverfront.

Thursday night got started with the “4-Paws Doggie Pageant” that was sponsored by the Swiss Friends of Animals; and after the Little Swiss Polka Dancers and the Edelweiss Dancers held the first of their four performances; the first-ever Little Miss Swiss pageant was held, with Emma Sullivan earning the crown.

The opening ceremonies were then held, with Chaithy Compton singing “The National Anthem” and festival president Kirk Works introducing the members of the board of directors and the volunteers for this year’s festival.

The night was capped off with the Edelweiss Teen Princess pageant, and sophomore Carrie Truax won that title from a field of 15 contestants.

Friday again saw hot weather, but it was cooled down somewhat when “Indiana’s Largest Water Balloon Fight” was held in the ballfield. Although organizers Switzerland County Area Youth fell short of their goal, more than 200 participants filled the outfield of the baseball field to participate. A tanker truck from the Jeff-Craig Fire and Rescue provided a blanket of water over the entire event; and a portable water truck from Moorefield was driven through the crowd by members of Switzerland County EMS.

Cincinnati television personality and Switzerland County native Jessica Donnellon was on hand for the event; and with rousing approval from all who participated, the water balloon fight will likely become an annual event.

Another new highlight on Friday night was the lighted boat parade, with vessels covered with lights moving along the Ohio River.

Saturday dawned with some falling temperatures, and the annual 5K River Run/Walk saw participants covering the route, which ran through Vevay. Water stations and patrolling volunteers made sure that everyone made it through the event safely.

The Grand Festival Parade kicked off at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, and was led by Grand Marshal Charlie Jester and his team of pulling horses. Switzerland County Sheriff Nathan Hughes rode “shotgun” on the wagon, which also carried friends and family members.

The Switzerland County High School band was again a big hit; and several floats graced this year’s parade, with entries ranging from the FFA to the Little Swiss Polka Dancers to Markland Baptist Church.

Local loonies Robert Findley and Edsel Detraz broke up the parade crowd with their interpretation of “Polka Dancing Elvis”; and a wide array of jugglers, clowns, and others dotted the parade route.

The 3-on-3 basketball jamboree started on the park’s basketball courts in the afternoon, and players didn’t seem to have too much trouble dealing with the hot conditions. An afternoon rain shower temporarily forced players to the school gyms, but the courts dried and play returned to the festival.

The grape stomp competitions are always a crowd favorite, and this year was no exception. Large crowds saw many participants in the stomp, with ages ranging from the very young to the young at heart.

The Swiss Ambassador program brought seniors from all of the area high schools to the festival; and this year’s Male Swiss Ambassador was B.J. Sieverding of South Ripley; while Switzerland County’s Kara Hudson was honored as the Female Swiss Ambassador.

One of the most unique and unusual performers at this year’s festival was the “Joy Unspeakable Living” statue, which made an appearance on Saturday and Sunday. Large crowds gathered around the performer, who resembled a concrete statue on Saturday and a bronze statue on Sunday.

Saturday wrapped up with another outstanding performance by “Rick K and the Allnighters”, and the fireworks over the Ohio River also got rave reviews from the overflow crowd.

The canoe races on Sunday afternoon saw multiple entries in all of the categories, including nine canoes in the Open Class event.

The junior high school cheerleader competition had only one entry – the Switzerland County squad; but the high school cheerleading competition had nine entries and filled the amphitheater with supporters.

The squad from Owen County, Kentucky, emerged as the winning squad; followed by East Central, Milan, and South Dearborn. The Switzerland County cheerleaders had an impressive routine, and certainly had a large number of supporters at the contest.

Overall the 2007 version of the Swiss Wine Festival was a great one, and as booths and stages continue to be dismantled this week; organizers and volunteers are no doubt thinking about what can be done bigger and better for the 2008 version.