Alma will host its annual Swiss Heritage Days on July 27 and 28, 2018. 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.”
Find traditional Swiss Alphorn players, Mary & Ralph Brindle, on Main Street from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. They will stroll up and down Main Street making various stops along the “hiking trail” (see shopping) with a final performance at Buena Vista Scenic Overlook on Saturday at 5 p.m. Listen for the “Sound of Music!” on Friday afternoon from 1-4 p.m.; accordion player Mike Opitz will be playing traditional Swiss songs and yodeling outside the Hotel de Ville, Fire & Ice, and in the Secret Gardens. Find Opitz entertaining again on Saturday from 1-5 p.m. on the patio of 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 3G Gallery at 10 a.m.! Rubenzer will keep the crowds entertained until 2 p.m., and then accordion and base guitar duo, Squeeze & Base, will finish off the afternoon of dancing in front of 3G Gallery. And the music keeps going after sundown during Swiss Heritage Days! Red Ram will host a band from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Come to town early on Saturday morning and enjoy a Swiss pancake breakfast from 8-11:30 a.m. at Wings Over Alma Nature & Art Center. Pier 4 Café will be serving a special quiche with fresh fruit. The Alma Bakery will have fresh baked pretzels and other Swiss baked goods. The Alma Hotel will be frying cheese curds on the sidewalk of Main Street. Bill’s Talk of The Town will have traditional Swiss meatballs. Fire & Ice will be serving traditional sweets, Sachertorte and Nuustorte, with your gourmet coffee, and make sure to get ice cream from 1-3 p.m. — free if you’re a child in traditional Swiss attire! Grab a brat at the fire department along with a tour of a fire truck. The American Legion will serve steak sandwiches and grilled bratwursts. Relax after all that polka dancing with a Spotted Cow and pretzels in the beer garden of the Empire Room at the Hotel de Ville Grand.
The local art galleries and gift shops sponsor a “hiking trail” each year. Artists create 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 Coronation on Friday at 5 p.m. Meet this year’s Swiss Miss when she receives her sash and title, and Swiss Alp Horns will inaugurate her reign. 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. Bluebird gallery will have a selfie photobooth where you can say “Swiss cheese” in front of a Swiss mountain backdrop. The Burlington Hotel & Quilt Shop is holding a Swiss fabric arts contest. Entries are due by September 5, 2019. Castlerock Museum will have a tent on Main Street on Saturday to discuss the impact the Swiss had on the history of warfare by explaining Pikemen and Halberdiers. Learn more about Swiss warfare at Castlerock Museum, open from 1-4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. 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 is held.
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.