Swiss Heritage Days in Alma, Wisconsin


Blanche Schneider
Blanche Schneider

Alma will host its annual Swiss Heritage Days on July 28 and 29, 2017. The event is a citywide celebration recognizing the Swiss settlers who truly built a town with a solid foundation, as the original streets and homesteads of Alma were literally carved into a stone hillside under a 500-foot bluff overlooking the mighty Mississippi River. Due to the steep grade of the town, Alma is only two streets wide with several short, connecting streets, 12 of which are actually staircases. Alma’s famous “stair step streets” show the legacy of the Swiss. Each year, Alma residents celebrate those early settlers from the Swiss Alps who looked at the steep Mississippi bluffs and said, “We can build here.”


On Friday night from 5-7 p.m., accordion and base guitar duo Squeeze & Base will entertain at The Empire Room of the Hotel de Ville Grand. Get your polka shoes on right away on Saturday morning because Ray Rubenzer, a one-man polka band and yodeling sensation, will get you dancing outside of 3G Gallery at 10 a.m.! Rubenzer will keep the crowds entertained until 2 p.m., but there will be more accordion music and yodeling coming from Mike Opitz at the Empire Room from noon to 5 p.m. And you’ll find traditional Swiss Alphorn players on Main Street from 2-4 p.m. They will start playing at the South end of town and make their way up to the Secret Gardens behind Fire & Ice for a final performance at 4 p.m. And the music keeps going after sundown during Swiss Heritage Days! Make your way back to the Empire Room for Rocka-billy-Riot from 8 to midnight!


The Empire Room will offer special menu items, and a Swiss pancake breakfast will be offered at Wings Over Alma Nature & Art Center from 8-11:30 a.m. on Saturday. Grab a brat at the Fire Department along with a tour of a fire truck anytime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and American Legion Post 224 will be serving steak sandwiches and grilled bratwursts from 4-7 p.m.


The local art galleries and gift shops sponsor a “hiking trail” each year. Artists create special Swiss-inspired works of art and the gift shops stock up on Swiss-themed items. “Hikers” receive an Alma Swiss passport, and get stamps at participating locations. The passports are then put into a drawing, which is held at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Fire & Ice. The passport of one lucky hiker is awarded 150 Alma Dollars, equivalent to $150 dollars at the participating galleries and gift shops in Alma.


Wings Over Alma will be the site of the Swiss Miss Pageant on Friday at 4 p.m. The Swiss Rock Toss, or Steinstossen, is a much talked about event where men, women and children see how far they can toss a 20-pound rock. This event is hosted by Alma’s Volunteer Fire Department at 2 p.m. on Saturday in a lot across from city hall. Buy a toss, win a prize, and support the Fire Department. Castlerock Museum will have a tent on Main Street from 10 a.m. to noon to discuss impact the Swiss had on the history of warfare by explaining Pikemen and Halberdiers. More discussion of Swiss warfare will be offered at Castlerock Museum, which will be open from 1-4 p.m. The Alma Historical Society will give a short Swiss history lesson every hour on the hour at the Alma Area Museum, and learn more about Alma’s beloved Blanche Schneider, in whose memory this event it held. The Alma Area Museum will also have a booth on Main Street selling Swiss cookbooks and handing out information about the Swiss in Alma.

Alma residents invite you to visit their historic town, hike the stair step streets, and experience Swiss culture through music, food, dance and other activities. Join them for a fun-filled weekend, and get into the spirit by wearing Swiss-inspired dress! If you’re not sure what to wear, there are shops selling Swiss T-shirts in town!


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