The European Song Contest takes place every year, the Olympics and the World Cup every four years. But for some reason, the Swiss like to celebrate events every three years.
Take the Züri Fäscht: 2013, 2016, 2019, etc. Or the Eidgenössisches Schwing- und Älplerfest: 2013, 2016, 2019, etc. And then, there is the Eidgenössisches Jodlerfest: 2011, 2014, 2017!
These traditional festivals bring together the Swiss like hardly any other festival. The Swiss National Day on August 1 is usually a quiet event in Switzerland with bonfires and some fireworks. (It does not compare to the American Fourth of July in any way.) In fact, many Swiss will tell you that if you want to experience a large First of August festival, you should celebrate with the Swiss abroad.
Ninety solid years of tradition
The 30th annual Swiss National Jodlerfest took place in Brig-Glis from June 23 to 25, 2017. We went there for the weekend to see my cousin and his yodeler group, the Rotbach Chörli, competing for a prize.
We had no idea what to expect. But when we could not find a hotel in Brig, or Glis, or Leuk, or Sierre, and when we noticed that any remaining Airbnb's were going for between 500 to 1000 francs a night, we should have had a clue.
Let's just say: This event is massive! No less than 15’000 participants are here to sing and/or play their alphorns...
From A as in alphorn to Z as in Zäuerli
An interesting fact is that choirs from all the different regions of Switzerland will compete during the three years leading up to the next Jodlerfest. Only the best will get an invitation to perform at the Swiss National Yodel Festival, like the one we visited in Brig.
We arrived at lunchtime on Friday, just in time to see a small parade and the opening of the festivities outside the Stockalper Castle in Brig. With pomp and circumstance, the hosting baton was passed from the organizers from Davos, who had hosted the event in 2014, to those from Brig-Glis.
From this moment on, the city hummed of alphorns, songs, and Zäuerli.
Outside every bar and restaurant and on every corner, spontaneous Zäuerli songs were performed between rounds of beer, wine, and schnapps. (We're talking the potent 40-percent-plus-Swiss-kind!)
For the entire weekend, the town of Brig had a light haze and a lingering smell of BBQ. That’s because the compulsory bratwurst, as well as the Swiss national sausage, cervelat, were being grilled every few meters.
By the way, this year's Jodelfest took place during a heatwave!
Despite the record heatwave with temperatures well above 30 degrees Celsius, the singers all wore their traditional local costumes. And the churches, gymnasiums, theaters, and halls were full of listeners.
Estimates were at over 150’000 visitors for a town with a population of under 13’000. Here are some of the best pictures and impressions from the weekend. Impressive performances were put on by a delegation from Tokyo, Japan, as well as from Calgary, Canada.
(And in case you are wondering, my cousin's choir placed first!)
So, if you like people in traditional garb and you dig grilled sausages and beer, the Eidgenössisches Jodlerfest is a festival for you! Just remember that you have just missed an edition and will have to wait another three years for the next one...