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‘This is for everybody’: Swiss-Italian heritage celebration coming to Central Coast

The first day of festivities kicks off Friday, Sept. 22 in Orcutt, where an informal meet-and-greet will be held at the Far Western Tavern.
Swiss-Italian Heritage Event, 2023, Daniel Lahr
Posted at 5:01 PM, Aug 15, 2023

The alphorns are blowing.

A three-day event celebrating everything Swiss-Italian heritage is coming to the Central Coast this fall. And all are invited, genealogical past notwithstanding.

The first day of festivities kicks off Friday, Sept. 22 in Orcutt, where an informal meet-and-greet will be held at the Far Western Tavern.

Saturday, Sept. 23 will be a day full of Swiss-Italian activities at a private ranch near Los Alamos. It includes wine and cheese tastings, exhibits, alphorns and accordions, lectures on ancestry and genealogy, barbeque, and “lots and lots of cousins,” according to the event organizers.

“This is for everybody, not for just the Swiss,” Daniel Lahr said, who is a 10th-generation Californian of Swiss descent who helped organize the event. “We want to celebrate the Swiss culture. … It’s a great place to go and experience that.”

While all are invited, registration and payment are required.

Editor's Note: Find more information about registration at the bottom of this page.

Sunday, Sept. 24 will start with a brunch at Madonna Inn and a presentation by John Madonna, whose family is of Swiss-Italian descent. The festivities will then move to Cayucos, a place of profound historical importance for the group. It’s where the first Swiss immigrants landed on the Central Coast, planting seeds that would leave their mark on the region for years to come.

The event organizers plan to have a historical tour of Cayucos on Sunday followed by a reenactment of a Swiss celebration parade, in which all are invited to participate.

The parade was held annually in Cayucos for many years from the late 1800s and early 1900s, according to an event organizer. Organizers currently expect around 300 people, with the farthest registered attendee being from Athens, Greece. “Pretty exciting,” Lahr said.

The weekend-long event will close with a remembrance held at the Cayucos cemetery, where many of Swiss descent are buried.

“It’s an important thing to stay connected to your roots, to know where you came from,” Lahr said. “Having one foot in the past is keeping that heritage alive.”

Those interested in registering for the event — or connecting with those of Swiss-Italian descent — can do so by joining the Valle Maggia Families group on Facebook. One can also register by filling out a registration form and emailing it to event organizer Denise Heidepriem at DeniseHeidepriem@yahoo.com.

Access the event registration form here.

Swiss-Italian Gathering Invitation & Registration 20231024_1.jpg