Schwingfest Showcases Wrestling, Swiss-Style

By The Chronicle

The largest Swiss-style wrestling of its kind in the Western U.S. will return to Frances in July to wow the throngs with the beloved Schwingfest celebration.

Wrestlers each wear small canvas shorts called schwinghosen with two straps, front and back, to grapple opponents. Although the pants may look silly to some, the event is a very serious tradition dating back 700 years. “Schwingin’” takes place at Frances Swiss Park in the town just west of Pe Ell.

The matches are set in a 30-foot diameter circle covered with sawdust. Rounds last five minutes unless a fall is achieved, and wrestlers are scored on aggressiveness, sportsmanship and other criteria.

The high-point winners receive Swiss-imported crowns from “crown girls,” following the tradition of young maidens presenting victors with crowns of laurel leaves and acorns.

The men compete on Saturday and the boys on Sunday, which tends to be the more family-oriented day of the festival.

As long as the Swiss have inhabited Lewis and Pacific counties, there has been Swiss wrestling. The Lewis-Pacific Swiss Society was formed in 1932 to help preserve the heritage of immigrants who settled around Pe Ell, Frances and Lebam.

Their motto is, “Come as a stranger, leave as a friend.”

For further information telephone 748-4887.


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