The event, now 30 years old, celebrates the arrival of about 100 Swiss families in America around 1869.
GRUETLI-LAAGER, Tenn. — The Cumberland Plateau might be a far cry from Switzerland, but Swiss food, music and activities on tap this weekend will revive the community’s roots, the event’s organizers said.
John Baggenstoss, president of the Grundy County Swiss Historical Society, said the Swiss Heritage Celebration at the Stocker-Stampfli Home Place in Gruetli-Laager will give people an idea of what the community was like in its early days.
The event, now 30 years old, celebrates the arrival of about 100 Swiss families in America around 1869, Mr. Baggenstoss said.
Families that settled in Gruetli “found Grundy County very much like it is today,” he said. “They had to clear the land and basically set up a colony.”
According to the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, Capt. Eugen Plumacher, the Swiss commissioner of immigration to the United States, and Peter Staub, a Swiss immigrant living in Knoxville, bought 15,000 acres south of Beersheba Springs in Grundy County.
Swiss families of farmers, artisans, merchants and professionals had arrived in Gruetli by the late 1870s, the encyclopedia states.
The colony faded as second-generation families in the 1920s and 1930s moved to other cities, Mr. Baggenstoss said.
“Today, there’s probably no more than one or two farms that you’d recognize as colony homes,” he said. “We’re fortunate enough to have the best one of the bunch.”
Rose Marie Stampfli passed away in 2000, leaving behind her farm, her life savings and a will mandating that the society protect and preserve the buildings on the Stocker-Stampfli Home Place.
“We’ve gotten several grants from the county and the Tennessee Historical Commission to restore them,” he said.
The annual festival helps raise money to restore the farm to its 1900-era glory, he said. The society plans to use this year’s money to replace a barn roof. Admission is $2 for individuals, $5 for families.
About 1,000 people are expected to attend to sample Swiss food, wine and music. A team of oxen will be used to demonstrate farming techniques and other exhibitors will show tools, artifacts and family records, Mr. Baggenstoss said.
Under special authority granted by the county for one day, the festival also will have a limited supply of German beer.
Lynda Kunz Harper said she spent many childhood days at the Stampfli home. She remembers the family making cheese and growing sweet potatoes, she said.
“As children with the Stampfli kids that came up, our entertainment was trying to see who could throw corncobs over the barn,” Mrs. Harper said.
“They would have big Jass games — it’s a big card game the Swiss play — and it would go on into the night and all us kids would be asleep on a bed and ready to go home,” she said.
Mrs. Harper said she will have old records and paperwork for review.
“I will have a lot of material, the genealogies,” she said. “There is a lot of material to look at.”
Mrs. Harper and Mr. Baggenstoss said one of the biggest recent draws to the event is Tony Zgraggen’s Swiss Alphorn Band.
The band, sponsored by the Swiss embassy, has played the celebration the last two years.
“Everybody just really seems to enjoy that,” Mrs. Harper said.
She said the event is fun for everyone, Swiss or not.