Back in the Day | Fête 1961

John Godfrey '61
Enjoy John's account of Fête des Vendages as originally published in the 1960/1961 Yearbook.
Phase 1: Preparation of the flower floats on Sunday.  To be a fully qualified participant at this stage, it is essential that you have spent at least half an hour in some completely uncomfortable position nailing droopy, soggy flowers onto a wooden base.  It is also essential that a large number of these flowers disintegrate petal by petal while you are nailing them.  The chief purpose of phase one is to make you appreciate stages two and three all the more.

Phase 2: Saturday night.  As far as qualifications for participation in this phase, anything goes.  The only way I can think of summing up the affair is to write my own personal experiences.  The title might be “A Pleasant Nocturnal Ramble through Neuchâtel” or perhaps more accurately “A Night to Remember”.

I was slowly wandering toward the Post Office when I saw a rather elderly woman smiling at me.  I naturally flashed my warmest smile back and immediately regretted it.  As I emptied the confetti from my mouth, I realized that I would have to cut down my smiling that evening.  By the time I reached the Post Office I had become a seasoned confetti-ducker.  Now the friendliest smile was answered by a form of closed-mouth grin. 

Arriving at the rides, I met a party of the Junio College girls seeking refuge from the confetti.  Together we climbed aboard the “dodg’em cars” and proceeded to gang up on the unwary Swiss drivers who hadn’t had the benefit of years of experience at the Canadian National Exhibition that we had.  We encountered “The Flying Scotsman” near this vicinity - a 6’6” man, dressed in a velvet Schottish Highlands outfit.  What such an outfit was doing in a Wine Festival, no one knows and never will. 

I next wandered into the Swiss version of a pub and quickly made friends with a group of German-Swiss who, along with the Neuchâtelios, were rapidly diminishing the supply of wine.  On leaving the establishment, I met up with another group from the College, and together we slowly rambled to the Hôtel de Ville.  There, we gathered forces and demonstrated to all our family “bunny hop”. Thus hopping down the street, snake style, we added some Swiss to our ranks and visited the roving musical bands playing the fast and furious rock and roll and even the odd polka.  We wended our way back to the Hôtel de Ville and staged a “bunny-hop” war, jamming the others against the walls.  I’m sure that incident will still be remembered by many Neuchâtelios as “The Night of the Storming - Oct. 8”.  

This reverie continued into the small hours of the morning with the spirit of “Eat, Drink and Be Merry”. As we Canadians meandered homeward, discussing enthusiastically the events of the night, we found we were covered in confetti on shoes, in jackets, everywhere.  Indeed when the Feuille d’Avis reported on Monday that 80,000 bads had been sold we were convinced it was true.

Phase 3: The Sunday afternoon Cortège.  Promptly at three o’clock in the afternoon, the cortège commended.  Many of us had never seen so many colourful floats, made from thousands of flowers.  They were in all shapes and colours - Parisienne Cigarettes, palaces and event teddy bears done by Armourins.  Accompanying them were bands, men on horseback, acrobats, a little of everything.  And to add to it all, the sun appeared, making it a truly colourful afternoon (and another confetti day).

To sum it up, the Fête, from beginning to end, approved a most interesting and colourful affair.  It seemed quite impossible that just overnight, Neuchâtel, a quiet town of students, who turn into a riotous city of three times its population. 
Neuchâtel Junior College offers the unique opportunity to study Canadian curriculum abroad. While living in Switzerland in a French community, students enjoy an international education through travel and experiential learning in Europe. Gap year and Grade 12  high school students gain international experience and develop independence and life skills that prepare them for university and the global workplace.

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