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Emmental town braces for wrestling onslaught

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Emmental town braces for wrestling onslaught
"Schwingfest" traditional wrestling competition draws a crowd. Photo: Monika Flueckiger/swiss-image.ch
10:49 CEST+02:00
Should you happen to visit the medieval town of Burgdorf in the canton of Bern this weekend be forewarned: you won't be alone.

The town of 15,000 residents is bracing for 250,000 visitors as the annual traditional wrestling contest or “Schwingfest” takes place, the highlight of Switzerland’s oldest Alpine farmers' fair.

The fair has run every summer for more than 600 years.

The three-day federal wrestling competition starts on Friday and organizers have put in place six viewing stands accommodating 52,000 spectators for the spectacle, the SDA news agency reported.

Outside the stadium, three giant video screens will show all the action to those unable to get a seat inside.

A total of 280 muscle-bound wrestlers will grapple for glory in the sawdust during the showcase event.

But apart from the wrestling there are other traditional sports, such as stone throwing, involving 121 participants in different categories tossing rocks weighing 20, 40 and 83.5 kilogrammes.

Twenty teams will also be competing in a Hornussen competition, an usual traditional Swiss game.

 It involves hitting a puck-like object with a flexible stick, similar to a fishing rod, into a field where members of the opposing team have to stop it using paddle-like devices, small boards attached to sticks.

The object of the person striking the puck or “nouss” is to hit it over the heads of the members of the other team.

Other traditional folkloric activities take place over a 70-hectare area in the town, noted as the gateway to the Emmental cheese-making district.

More than 4,000 volunteers are helping to put on the three-day event, budgeted at 25 million francs, which gets under way on Friday morning, SDA said.

At 3pm a parade of 1,200 people in traditional costumes will parade through the centre of town in a procession with 500 farm animals, the news agency said.

Police have warned the public of heavy traffic on highways in the area around Burgdorf and organizers are recommending that visitors travel by rail.

More than 400 special trains will transport spectators to the Emmental area for the weekend’s activities, SDA said.

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