International Alphorn Festival
The International Alphorn Festival (Festival International Cor des Alpes) takes place every summer in the Swiss Alps. For three nights and two days, the town of Nendaz comes alive with the sound of the famous regional instrument.
The festival begins on a Friday night, when people gather in a large tent in the center of the town for live performances and traditional Swiss food and drink. Alphorn players from around the world take to the stage to entertain locals and visitors alike, starting off the festival with energy and sound.
The following day is an important one for the alphorn players themselves. Throughout the day they compete for the grand prize at the International Alphorn Festival, which is awarded annually to the best alphorn musician. Over in the tent, entertainment carries on during the afternoon in anticipation of the evening’s parade.
The parade starts at the gondola (telecabine) station in Nendaz and winds its way down the main street to the tent in the center of the town. Dancers, musicians, animals, and floats all make their way along the road to the cheers of the crowds around them.
At the end of the parade, everyone gathers in the tent for an evening of musical entertainment. Alphorns, bands, singers, and yodelers all perform while vendors around the tent sell food and drinks. Throughout the evening, a famous procession of men yoked with giant cowbells winds its way in and out of the tent, a loud but beloved local tradition.
On the Sunday of the festival, everyone takes the gondola up to Tracouet for a big celebration by the lake. Vendors sell local arts and crafts as well as food, and live bands entertain the crowds. Traditional Swiss wrestling takes place beside the lake as well.
The event culminates in the finale of the festival: a giant circle of alphorn players in concert with the mountains in the background. It is a beautiful sight to witness. Afterwards the final round of the competition from the previous day takes place, and a winner is announced. That is followed by another ensemble of alphorn players, after which the festival ends.
If you are going to go to the International Alphorn Festival in Switzerland, make sure to book your accommodation in advance. Nendaz is a small town and hotels and guesthouses book up well ahead of time every year.