This summer, the little Swiss town of Vevey in the Canton of Vaud is getting ready to hold its 12th Fête des Vignerons. It’s an event you can’t afford to miss, because it only comes around five times every century! Relais & Châteaux is a partner to this year’s event.
“How many do you get in a lifetime? Three? Four if you’re lucky? So imagine how much we’re looking forward to it!” Stéphane Décotterd’s excitement at the mere mention of the Fête des Vignerons is palpable, all the more so just a few days out from the launch of this year’s event on 18 July. The manager of Le Pont de Brent restaurant in Vevey isn’t at all exaggerating the historical nature of the festival, which saw the town named a must-visit destination in the prestigious National Geographic. Indeed, it is held just five times per century, and no more, ever since the first ever festival in 1797. Coming at intervals of 14-28 years, the last one was held in 1999.
For this, the 12th festival, no fewer than 20,000 visitors are expected every day, taking in 20 headline shows which, as Stéphane Décotterd reminds us, “attract 5500 actors and extras, including 900 singers”. And Stéphane should know all about it: the youngest singers include his 12 year-old daughter, who has been rehearsing for months so that everything runs without a hitch on the day. Theatre, dance, and music, most of the performing arts are represented, under the leadership of Daniele Finzi Pasca. The Italian producer is a veteran of gargantuan productions, having been the creative force behind the closing ceremonies of the 2006 and 2014 Winter Olympic in Turin and Sochi.
A scheduled “frenzy”
Just like the Pont de Brent restaurant, the Grand Hotel du Lac is also a partner to the festival. “A 20-year wait... you can imagine how much we’re hoping the festival will be a success!” smiles Luc Califano, manager of the Grand Hotel. The hotel will provide a special shuttle service for festival-goers, while the restaurant will offer uninterrupted afternoon service. “It’s such an obvious partnership that there was no need to ask. Everyone from the area is getting involved. It’s a huge part of the local culture. Everyone who’s old enough to have been to one of the past festivals has great memories of it, as well as some great stories. It’s an amazing spotlight on Vevey, because the infrequency of the event and its popularity mean that people flock here from far and wide”, Stéphane Décotterd goes on. “People often talk about an individualistic society that’s unable to come together around positive values, but here the opposite is true: thousands of people of all generations come together for a festive event”, he enthusiastically gushes.
Indeed, For Luc Califano it’s a fine occasion to discover the “center of the world! A town at the crossroads of Europe, an hour from Bern, Gstaad, and the Italian border. It’s a grandiose panorama”, while for Stéphane Décotterd, it’s “a place where the mountains meet a lake that could be a small sea, with UNESCO-certified heritage”. Vevey is a small town of 20,000 residents that was popular with Charlie Chaplin, amongst others. During the festival, its population doubles every night with visitors eager to take part in the “frenzy” (as Stephane Décotterd puts it) of an event that is 20 years in the making. One thing’s for sure, the festival is bound to create plenty of great memories for the two decades ahead.