GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, July 26, 2014 – When it comes to fireworks, there are none better than the pyrotechnic show at the annual Fete de Geneve (Geneva Festival) in July and August in Switzerland.
The event traces its history to 1923 when flower decorated cars drove through the city. Though the floral parade never developed to the level of the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, it had an evolution of its own with a massive fireworks display that has become the signature event of the festival.
After World War II, the Fete de Geneve expanded to four days, but it did not capture the hearts of the people of Geneva until the 1990s. This year, the official festival runs from August 1st through August 10th with a schedule of pre-festival activities beginning July 17th, making summer on the shores of Lake Geneva nearly a month-long celebration.
Pre-festival activities take place in the city’s English Garden where the Miss Geneva contest highlights the jamboree of food, carnival rides, dancing and international music. The festival kicks off with one of the newest and most popular events, the Beach Rugby Tournament. There are also parades with wacky costumes and a Waitresses/Waiters Race as well as concerts throughout the three-plus weeks of rejoicing.
Celebrations last into the wee hours of the morning, but by sunrise the city is once again clean as a whistle. In typical Swiss fashion, it’s as though a team of nocturnal elves descended upon Geneva in the middle of the night to scrub and polish the city back to its original pristine setting.
For all the festivities however, the closing fireworks are what capture the imagination, and well they should.
One reason for the success of the spectacular hour-long sky-show is Geneva’s setting.
As home of the International Red Cross (the Red Cross flag is the reverse of the Swiss flag), Geneva is a global city situated at the western end of the Lake of Geneva which spills into the River Rhone.
The city wraps around both shores of the lake in the French-speaking region of Switzerland. During the day, the landmark fountain known as the Jet d’Eau sprays water some 300 feet into the air.
The Fete de Geneve offers a new dimension in fireworks technology; a symphony for the heavens that seems to outdo itself each year. The viewing area for the spectacle is tucked along the shore of the French side of the lake. Seats are available for 50, 60 or 70 Swiss francs, which is between 50 and 70 dollars. Loudspeakers surround the seating area for visitors to witness the fireworks and hear the music that are synchronized within 1/10th of a second by the computers that operate show.
Nearly 600,000 awed spectators will be dazzled by pyrotechnics from some 40 firing stations lining the shores of the lake that cover nearly 300,000 square feet. Swiss fireworks experts from Pyrostars and Sugyp, have designed a program called Man and Time that ranges from astronomical observations of antiquity, the sun dial, the hour glass and the clepsydra, to church tower clocks and grandfather clocks, wall clocks and watches, chronometers and the atomic clock.
People without seats can see the show from the street and listen to the music on a local FM radio station.
The Swiss side of the lake provides the backdrop for the display. All lights along the shoreline are turned off, creating a jet-black curtain for the spewing fiery stars that illuminate the night sky. Don’t be late because you can set your watch by the ten o’clock start of the display that is guaranteed take your breath away.
In the event your vacation plans do not allow you to be in Geneva on the 10th there is a 30 minutes pre-festival fireworks show on Saturday, August 2nd at precisely 10:30 pm which still promises to rival anything you have ever seen anywhere else. This year’s theme is the 200th anniversary of Geneva’s accession to Swiss Confederation. Make no mistake however, spectacular as it is, there is nothing to compare with the finale.
Tickets can be reserved at Fnac, an international ticket service, either in person or online at their website. Tickets are also available at the Geneva Tourist Office, Rue du Mont-Blanc 18 in Geneva or they can be purchased in the English Garden during the festival.
Add this event to your traveler’s bucket list and witness the skies over Lake Geneva burst into stunning arrays of man-made shooting stars. It is truly unforgettable.
(Author’s note: If you watch the video that accompanies this story, the most spectacular portion of the fireworks happen approximately three minutes into the program. Also, be aware that the music is difficult to hear because the microphones were not patched into the sound system. No matter, the visuals speak for themselves.)
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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