By Beverly Keller
Excitement is building and the weather forecast could give the Ohio Swiss Festival, the best weather from start to finish that it has had in recent years.
“We are excited for the 66th edition of the Ohio Swiss Festival,” Scott Gerber, President of the Board of Directors stated. “We have been working hard to make sure everything is in place. This is going to be a great week. We’ve got some new energy and we are ready to go.”
There really is something for everyone at the 66th annual event slated to begin tonight, Wednesday, September 26 at 6 p.m. with the crowning of the Little Swiss Miss. A total of five little girls will unwrap tightly contained roses covered in layer after layer of tissue paper in hopes of finding the right color to be the Little Swiss Miss or a member of the court.
Durant Amusements will be the new kid on the block to provide rides for this year’s event. Bands for all day rides will be available for purchase both Friday and Saturday for $17 each. Cost on Thursday night for wristbands is $14. Individual tickets can be purchased for $1.50 each but some rides take three tickets. The group is expected to bring a large selection of 30 rides to this year’s event including thrill rides like the Yo Yo, a large slide, carousel, ferris wheel and fun house.
Thursday night there is even more fun slated with the Big Wheel Race at 6 p.m. in downtown Sugarcreek thanks to Huntington Bank and Bags. The event will be held, weather permitting, and test the strength of area kindergarten and first grade students.
Across town, the People’s Choice Cheese Judging and the famous Cheese Eating Contest are slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the pavilion behind the Sugarcreek Fire Station. After the votes are tallied and the cheese is swallowed, winners will be crowned.
But wait, there’s more on tap for Thursday night when the Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion are announced at 7, followed by the annual cheese auction.
The 2019 Ohio Swiss Festival Queen, Jaci Hershberger will be crowned at 8:15 p.m.
The craft tent will open at 9 a.m. both Friday and Saturday followed by concessions and rides at 11. On Friday, the wine and cheese garden inside the fire station opens at 11:30 a.m. After the posting of colors by Homer Weiss Post 494 of the American Legion at noon, expect to hear a welcome from President Gerber on the Main Street Stage.
Then the fun really starts when the Garaway Marching Pirates take over downtown. They will be followed by the sounds of Pittsburgh’s own Mon Valley Push. On the pavilion stage, Swiss Festival Favorite Joey Tomsick will oopah starting at 1 p.m. The much-loved Kiddie Parade will take off down Main Street on Friday at 2 p.m. and features area children and adults alike in Swiss costume. There is sure to be a pet or three dressed in Swiss attire as well.
Winners of the Kiddie Parade are invited back to take part in the Grande Parade on Saturday at 2 p.m. In addition, an Antique Car Parade is set for 1:45 p.m. on Saturday on Main Street. Something new and exciting for the Grand Parade is the addition of a calliope, sponsored by TMK Valley Propane in Bakersville. The unit will be set up on the grounds on Broadway following the parade to allow visitors to get a gander at its unique musical abilities.
Looking for live alphorn tunes? Look no farther than the Ohio Swiss Festival on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. when Alphorn Gruezie takes center stage on Main Street with a repeat performance at the pavilion on the midway at 3:30 p.m. Gerber noted a strolling alphorn player from Warren, Ohio will be on the grounds on Saturday.
Need to burn off some calories while at the festival? There are opportunities galore with Steinstossen (rock throw) sessions on Friday and Saturday. This year, the prize money has been pumped up thanks to a sponsorship from Sugarcreek Heating and Cooling. The winner of each session (men’s and women’s) takes home $50. The overall weekend winners will be awarded $250 each. Overall runners-up will receive $125 each. The Garaway alumni winner in men’s and women’s will each receive $250. Anyone who breaks the current records on file – 14 feet, 6 inches for men and 12 feet, 8.25 inches for women will be awarded $500. A special exhibition of Schwingfest – Swiss Wrestling – is set for Saturday night at the stone throw pit at 6:30 p.m. and will be done by members of the Garaway Wrestling Team.
There is also a Fun Run/Walk, 5k and 10k, set for Saturday morning starting at 8. Runners will check in near the Fire Station on Broadway and make their way through the hills of Sugarcreek depending on the race they choose to run. Inside the Fire Station is not only the home of the chicken barbecue the Ohio Swiss Festival has become famous for, that also has barbecued bratwursts, but there is also plenty of cheese and wine.
The Wine Garden area is open both Friday and Saturday and features a plethora of local and regional wineries in addition to area Swiss cheese creators. Something else new this year will be a Craft Beer Tasting area found in a tent in downtown Sugarcreek in front of the Brick Wall Sculpture. The area will feature Wooly Pig Brewery, Millersburg Brewery and Lockport Brewery. It will be open from 5 to 9 p.m. both Friday and Saturday night.
Be sure not to go home hungry and visit food booths on the midway, many of which are manned to benefit local churches and service clubs. Having a few apple fritters or a Trail and Swiss sandwich is a must-do at the festival and both are sure to hit the spot. If you need to sit a spell and enjoy some food, check out the cafeteria operated out of the Sugarcreek United Methodist Church anytime during the festival on Friday and Saturday. A tasty, all-you-can-eat fish fry is also set for Friday night at the American Legion on Broadway.
Right now, the weather looks absolutely incredible for the event after the rain leaves the area on Wednesday morning. For updates, find them on Facebook – Ohio Swiss Festival or call the Sugarcreek Information Center at 330-852-4113.