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Swiss carnivals play out to large crowds

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Swiss carnivals play out to large crowds
Around 150,000 turned out for Lucerne's carnival. Photo: Lars M
10:49 CET+01:00
With carnival season in full swing, numerous cities in Switzerland have been celebrating with colourful floats, costumes, children’s parades and traditional gugge music bands, as dry conditions boost attendance figures.

Around 150,000 people turned out for the six-day Lucerne carnival this year, 30,000 more than last year’s affair, which suffered from snowy conditions.

The carnival, Switzerland’s second largest after Basel, attracted 30,000 to its final procession on Tuesday evening.

Sion in the canton of Valais, which celebrated its 40th carnival this year, also welcomed more spectators than expected, with 42,000 people watching around 30 gugge bands parade through the town.

A much smaller celebration, some 6,000 watched last Sunday’s final procession in Fribourg’s Bolzes carnival, whose name refers to the Franco-German dialect spoken in the bilingual city.

While carnival season has so far passed without serious incident, revellers have generated a number of unusual call-outs for the authorities.

Last Sunday St Gallen cantonal police were called to the station of Mels after reports that a bear was asleep in the street.

Officers arrived at the scene to find a carnival participant dressed as a bear.

Roused from his slumber, he was ushered on to a train.

In Baden, mayor Geri Müller found himself the butt of most carnival jokes over last year’s “GeriGate” scandal in which he was temporary suspended from his duties for texting nude selfies of himself to a woman from his office.

Müller was forced to listen to quips about his actions as he attended an event to celebrate the final evening of the carnival, reports tabloid Blick.

Asked about the jokes, Müller reportedly replied “It’s carnival, I’m taking it in good humour”.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world some 4,000 Samba dancers dressed in Swiss colours depicted the history of Switzerland in a performance at the Rio carnival on Monday.

The promotional sequence, sponsored by Swiss national PR body Présence Suisse, featured alphorns, Swiss guards and depictions of mythic events such as the medieval legend of the dragon on Mount Pilatus.

Head of Présence Suisse, Nicolas Bideau, told newspaper Tribune de Genève that Brazil was a priority for Switzerland in the coming year.

“It’s the biggest consumer market in Latin America and yet ‘Swiss-made’ [Swiss Tourism’s marketing brand] is not well known,” he said.

Back in Switzerland, carnival arrives tonight in the capital with the traditional drumming ceremony to wake the bear imprisoned in the prison tower.

Masked revellers and gugge bands will then parade through the streets of Bern’s Old Town.

Basel’s Fasnacht, the biggest carnival in the country, expects hundreds of thousands to attend the festivities over a three-day period starting at 4am on Monday morning, with more than 10,000 participating in the official parades.

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