Four or five time each Century, Vevey welcomes the Festival of winegrowers. The entire population joins together in song, dance to celebrate their love for life, their homeland, their roots and their hope of a better future. For generations, the festival has kept on growing. It originated from the processions of the ancient “Confrérie des vignerons” (Winegrower Fraternity) called “Abbaye de l’agriculture” (The Abbey of Agriculture). Towards the end of the Middle Ages, the landowners founded this association to supervise the farmers’ work.
Only a procession
In the beginning, the Festival of winegrowers was a mere procession of a small number of vineyard owners and their winegrowers who would celebrate their good work with a banquet. From the 17th Century, singing, music and theatrical performances were increasingly included during the parades. It is only in 1797 that, for the first time, seating platforms are erected in the Vevey market-place and the procession becomes a real performance. It is divided into four seasons symbolised by mythological divinities (Bacchus, god of vineyards and wine, Ceres, goddess of agriculture and Summer, Pales, goddess of pastures, shepherds and Spring). In 1819, the “Cent-Suisses” (military battalion) and the “armaillis” (local dialect for traditional shepherds) sang the “Ranz des vaches” to join in with the celebrations.
Becoming a Must-See
The following instalments would become increasingly innovative, important and attended. The latest Festival attracted around 16,000 people at every one of the 15 shows. The festival is a not-to-be-missed event on the calendars of the wine industry’s stakeholders, the local community and international visitors alike. Nowadays thousands of volunteers, organisers and choirs take part in the celebrations.
Source : CARRUZZO, Sabine, « Fête des vignerons », in Lavaux, Vignoble en terrasses face au lac et aux Alpes, Lavaux World Heritage Site Application File for UNESCO, Cully, January 2006, pp. 35-38.