MIDWAY — Between 80,000 to 100,000 people descended on Midway this weekend to relish Swiss Days, a tradition here since the 1940s.
The occasional dirndl, flower hair wreath and alpine hat could be seen among the crowds Saturday, but strollers, flip-flops and sunblock ruled the town square.
Residents say that even with the massive crowds, the two-day event is really about a tight-knit community that comes together in the name of heritage and showing neighboring cities a good time.
Volunteer and Midway resident Maggie Fugitt said attending her first Swiss Days almost a decade ago secured her love for the place. "We came in strangers and walked out friends," she said of herself and her husband, who have volunteered at Swiss Days since they moved to Midway eight years ago. "The first one sold us."
Fugitt, who helps staff the information booth, said about 2,000 people from Midway and surrounding towns volunteer their time to make the event a reality. Youth play a big role by wiping down tables, taking out the trash and refilling water jugs. LDS Church members play a big role, she said, but at the end of the day it's a community-wide effort to make the festival full of music and Swiss cheese a reality.
Organized by the Midway Boosters, the event was home to 190 different booth vendors this year — all of which had to earn a plot in the town square through a jury selection. Headbands, housewares, artwork and crafts were available, as were Swiss tacos, ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches and scones the size of Frisbees. Swiss cheese was made locally for the festival.
More than a dozen performing groups shared the main stage, featuring a display of yodeling, dance and a capella songs. One such group, known as Swiss Miss, was comprised of girls who serve as the festival's royalty.
The girls, age 10-13, serve as ambassadors at parades and other community gatherings. Anna Snow is the 2011 Swiss Miss, and said "it was really shocking" when she learned at the Swiss Miss pageant in March that she was selected the winner.
Dressed in traditional Swiss dress like the rest of the royalty, Snow said she was still getting used to the compliments from festivalgoers, who notice her sash, curls and flower wreath and stopped to congratulate her.
Fugitt said those who have come to the festival for years might notice slight changes from year to year as new festival leadership comes and goes, but the changes are always improvements.
"It always gets better," Fugitt said, "bigger and better."