Swiss Days magnetic for family and strangers alike

Authored by Jim Langham on Aug 1, 2011

One of the winners at this year's Swiss Days was anyone that sold bottles of water or other refreshing liquids. Other than a small break with cloud cover on Friday morning, this year's festival will carry the tag as one of the hottest Swiss Days in recent years. But in spite of the heat and humidity, crowds showed up by the thousands; local businesses and Swiss Days officials reported good returns from this year's event.
One of the heartwarming events this year was the likes of those who came to town, not knowing what to expect, such as Wilmer Bultemeier and his wife who came to Indiana from Florida, not expecting to attend Swiss Days, but ended up spending their entire weekend here.
The Bultemeiers originally attended a meeting in Indianapolis last week. As things were winding down with their commitment, they mutually discussed the possibility of driving to the local community to see, "that Berne festival we had never been to."
Once they arrived, they became more and more intrigued with the town's Swiss emphasis and the way that it was carried out through the entire program of Swiss Days.
On Sunday, they found themselves so caught up in the community that they decided to stay over and attend the community praise service with Randy LaHaye.
Following the service, the couple commented, "this was worth staying for; in fact, this meant the most to us. It was a great service, very touching. We are so glad that we stayed over for it."
The Bultemeiers drive to Indianapolis today and fly out at noon, arriving at home in Florida two hours later.
This year's version of, "Heidi," had a good draw and received high praise. Of course, Floyd Liechty's dramatic portrayal of the professor was a hit to everyone, as was the obvious connective genuineness between Myron Schwartz (grandfather) and Laramie Schwartz (Heidi). One interesting tidbit of the musical was the participation of Pauline Parr, formerly Pauline Gerber, in the chorus.
"I have my dad's old case behind the curtains that he brought with him from Switzerland in 1906," said Parr.
Her father, Jacob Gerber, was known for his photographic excellence with the old-fashioned box camera in the early and middle parts of the 20th century. Parr took pride in using her dad's storage bag to participate in the Swiss oriented production.
As always, music took over the popularity on Saturday afternoon, as packed out crowds enjoyed the Edelweiss Singers at Cross Community Church, and then traveled down the street for the "Sounds of Switzerland" concert featuring guest
conductor Don Neuen.
Other performers included local resident Brent Neuenschwander on the organ, a solo performance by South Adams graduate Jared Schwartz and a yodeling performance by Berne's Yodeling Young family.
A large number of parade exhibits lined up under the heat by the former Berne Furniture Company to provide nearly an hour of entertainment to the large number of onlookers that gathered along the designated streets to watch and enjoy the event.
Like former Geneva resident Ronald Vorhees, many returned to town to stroll the streets in search of former friends and school mates.
"My parents wanted to come and they asked if I would like to come with them," said Vorhees, who lives in the Evansville area now. "I need to get up here more often. It's been something seeing people I haven't seen in decades. It really means a lot to be here."
Neuen said that he cherishes the opportunity to return to the area and rekindle memories of his beloved years in Berne. The world-known musician said that he has traveled worldwide, but there is still nothing that tenders his heart more than a return to Berne and a walk down the memory lane of school and family.
"I am so glad we came," said the Bultemeiers. "We always wondered how things were here in Berne at this festival. We've had a wonderful time. We are very touched by it."

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