Fête des Vignerons, short History of a Great Festival
14 June 2019
The Fête des Vignerons (Unesco World Heritage) is a tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation since the 18th century in the canton of Vaud in a region that stretches from Pully to Lavey near Valais.
Vevey generated a significant part of its income by wine-growing and trade in the eighteenth century. The city was surrounded by vineyards and the rhythm of the seasons and the wine calendar determined city-life.
The Confrérie des Vignerons (the Brotherhood of Winegrowers) called itself ‘Abbaye de l’agriculture’. The Brotherhood organized an annual parade. It was a cheerful parade of the winegrowers and their employees.
The parade ended at the General Assembly of the Council (le Conseil) of the Brotherhood, where their work was commented upon.
The Brotherhood decided in 1780 to reward the best winegrowers and their workers.
They marched in the front of the parade, accompanied by the Abbé-Président (the ‘Ab-President’), the members of the Council (le Conseil) and a large number of musicians, singers and costume figures who symbolised mythical figures and viticulture.
The quality of the parades and the number of spectators increased and a platform was established on the Marktet Square of the city in 1797.
The Fête des Vignerons was born. The book Helvétie 1800-1819 (Paris 2010) by Maurice Denuzière gives a good picture of this period in Vevey and Vaud.
The Napoleonic period, the creation of the canton of Vaud and the political and economic difficulties did not stop the development of the festival after 1813. A new festival was organised in 1819.
The parade became a real show. The arena of 1865 had a capacity of 10 000 spectators. The quality of music, theatre, choreography and costumes constantly improved.
More than 200 years after the first construction, the present-day stadium contains 16 000 seats and accommodates 5 000 actors and 1 000 musicians.
(Source and further information: G. Favrod, S. Carruzzo, Du cep à l’arène, petite histoire d’une grande Fête’ , dans Fête des Vignerons 2019. Une Envie de Fête, No. 1, Vevey, 2018; www.fdv2019.ch).