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Féchy en fête, 2011

Féchy, Switzerland, is a wine village, and today's the long-anticipated day of the 14th annual Fête du Raisin ('Grape Festival'), 10 September 2011, a major event in the Saturday social calendar of this part of La Côte, the lakeside villages between Lausanne and Geneva.

Kristin desperately wanted not to miss this convivial introduction to the wines of the region, but couldn't get back in time. I'm on my own.

The programme gets off to a rollicking start with the usual inspired allocutions and interludes by the fanfare, held in our upper village, Féchy-Dessus, behind the primary school, overlooking vineyards stretching down to the lake.

M. Berginz, head of the fête's organizing committee, brandishes his text threateningly, but in fact it was a lively ceremony, especially with . . .

. . . an early musical welcome from the school children.

Uschi's camera is determined not to miss a thing.

The serious ceremonials get underway with the bagpiper's opening serenade to the oenophiliac arts.

Every year a successful wine-growing nation is invited as guest of honor, and vine cuttings from those countries are planted in Féchy's Vigne du Monde ('World's Vineyard'), just below the church. This year the Guest of Honor is New Zealand, and here Mark Gibb, consul general at New Zealand's Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, welcomes the guests, extols New Zealand's own wines, and mentions New Zealand's win in the World Rugby, to great applause (M. Berginz is wearing an All-Blacks T-shirt beneath his blazer).

The mixed choir's rendition of the New Zealand national anthem and 'God Save the Queen'.

Every year, too, a nearby village is invited as a second Guest of Honor -- this year it's Gimel, and the Fanfare de Gimel is really letting the stops out today (a special treat for me, as I lived in Gimel for some years 'back in the day'.)

And now the men's choir is singing something equally enchanting.

The flag display: Switzerland on top and New Zealand below it, Gimel on the left, and Féchy on the right. Féchy's flag has got grapes on it; Gimel's has got twins ('jumelles') with tiny appendages on them.

The belfry overlooking us

The end of the ceremonies -- dignitaries and a guy with a shovel are filing down into the vineyards to plant the New Zealand cuttings, and the parents are rounding up their choir kids and getting ready to march down to Féchy Dessous for the party.

The back of the school, as the crowd divides into two groups: those who will join the parade and march down to the lower village, and those who will wait for the P'tit Train.

The ceremony of the "plantation dans la Vigne du Monde de cépages néozélandais"

Uschi's camera is getting a workout. Below them amid the vines, that seems to be a howitzer.

The fanfare of Féchy, conspicuous by their absence in the ceremonies so far, have been conserving their energies for the parade, or cortège, downtown.

The parade will begin when the paraders decide to parade, not before.

They're almost ready now -- crowds of wine enthusiasts and parade enthusiasts jostling for position just outside our front door.

Are we ready now? We are. Ooompah ooompah and off they go, chasing the tractor down the hill.

And only then does the P'tit Train come along to collect the rest of them.

"Me too, I'm going to Féchy." The tourist train (a Dotto Trains F87 model, perhaps hired for the occasion from Trolley and Tourist Tours of Geneva) ran continuously up through Féchy-Dessus all day.

Off they go. We need to take a little break from the excitement, so we'll go back to work for a while and trot on down the hill a little later.

The knee-jarring shortcut down to the lower village . . .

. . . and a look back up it at the photogenic church.

The very photogenic church . . .

. . . amongst the vineyards.

There's that howitzer again. (The Department of Vineyard Security)

The lovely old part of lower Féchy is festooned with booth-tents for nearly all purposes -- wine-tasting most of all ("dégustation de vins de l'appellation Féchy"), but also artisanal products, games etc., and of course . . . food.

The place between the auberge and the maison de commune

The lad on the far right is the bagpiper's son, who blew on a recorder to accompany his dad.

"Fish and chips" are available as well. (Almost: not cod, but fera du Léman.)

The P'tit Train on its appointed rounds. (Every European city and most towns seem to have the same train, and in francophone localities they are always called Le P'tit Train. "P'tit" sounds more petite than "Petit" does.)

This is how the system works -- subscribers can buy the commemorative pouch with a wine glass in it and wander from one winetasting booth to another until they fall down in the street.

("Get your finger out of my face, fatso.")

Around the old part of the village

Floral display and more booths

Artisanal apiculture -- honey products -- and beyond that, a display of "savors" of the region: sausages, jams, "truffenade d'été", etc.

Découpage -- the wonderful art of paper-cutting, a specialty particularly of the region around Château-d'Oex, where years ago we watched the ladies in the chalets above the village perform magical acts on a folded sheet with their little scissors snipping faster than the eye could follow them. This lady in the white pull gave Uschi and me an interesting update on the state of the art and its commercial opportunities.

Even the Pizza Man is here.

The main street of the old part of town (the Gimel banner is aloft - with its tiny appendages on)

Féchy en fête

Whirlrounds for the kids as well. Horrific screaming. It's time now to go home and get ready for a hot afternoon's hike (lucky we haven't been winetasting too much today).

The walk back up to Féchy-Dessus

Almost home -- it's really hot today, though much cooler up in the mountains, as it turned out. But if we'd been winetasting at 2 p.m. with the grown-ups here, we'd never have got back this far up the hill to home.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 11 September 2011.

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