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Schwingfest is a fun, family event

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By Teresa Herriman

The Courier-Herald

Swiss Park resembled an alpine village Saturday as more than 150 people enjoyed the annual Spring Schwingfest. Families from California to Canada came to Bonney Lake to participate in the event, sponsored by the Swiss Sportsman's Club of Tacoma.

Schwinging refers to Swiss-style wrestling matches and is the centerpiece of the daylong festival. Athletes took turns competing in one of three age categories, buebe, junior and senior, while the crowd enjoyed traditional Swiss food prepared on-site by members of the club.

Following the competition, attendees danced to the music of the Lyle Schaefer Orchestra. An award ceremony crowning the winning wrestlers followed.

"We are trying to keep the tradition going - music, schwinging and friendship," member Carl Spane said. "We are very proud of our heritage."

Swiss immigrants founded the Tacoma Schwinger Club in 1928. Thirty years later, the Schwinger Club merged with the Tacoma Swiss Rifle Club to form the Swiss Sportsman's Club of Tacoma.

Schwingfests were first held at Star Lake Park in Federal Way and Lonely Acres Park at Renton Junction until 1946. The Tacoma Rifle Club offered the grounds in Bonney Lake for the annual events and the schwingfests have been celebrated there ever since.

The Sportsman's Club estimates more than 500 young men have participated in the local schwingfests since the 1930's.

To ensure the future of the sport, the club established youth programs, called buebe-schwingen, conducting training and sponsoring Buebe Schwingfests from 1931 to 1942. The programs were reactivated in the early '60s to encourage young men to become interested in the sport. As a result, the youth groups have produced several father-son crown schwingers.

"I've been coming here since before I can remember," Marty Ochsner said. As vice president of the Sportsman's Club, Ochsner oversaw Saturday's event.

The Spring Schwingfest serves as a warm-up for the annual two-day Fall Schwingfest scheduled this year for August 14 and 15. Admission for the August event is $10 per person per day and includes an all-day pass and admission to the evening dance. Children under 12 are admitted free. The gates will open at 9 a.m. at Swiss Park, 9205 198th Ave. E.

Sunday's activities, which include the Buebe Schwingfest and dance, begins with a breakfast benefit sponsored by the Enzian Swiss Ladies' Choir followed by an outdoor Catholic mass.

Teresa Herriman can be reached at therriman@courierherald.com.

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