Santa Clara cancels Swiss Days, plans fireworks display instead

ST. GEORGE — Driving down Santa Clara Drive in Santa Clara, there is a definite sense in the air that the seasons are changing. Swiss flags hang from the lampposts and painted wooden cows and sponsor banners line the quaint street signaling that the annual celebration of the city’s heritage is approaching.

Painted cows in honor of the Swiss pioneers who settled the city of Santa Clara line the street, Santa Clara, Utah, Sept. 11, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Stark, St. George News

But though the cows, flags and banners are there, Swiss Days will not. Like many traditions and celebrations across Washington County in 2020, the city of Santa Clara’s Swiss Days celebration has been canceled due to health concerns amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Swiss Days event coordinators Lainee Frei and Brooke Ence told St. George News there will still be a fireworks display as they discussed the annual event that honors the city’s forebearers.

Swiss Days was started in 1990 by five Santa Clara residents – Sherri Anderson, Vicki Laswell, Claudia West, Pam Graf and Clark Ence – who had a two-fold purpose for creating the event, a previous St. George News report said. One, they wanted a way to preserve the heritage of the Swiss members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who settled the area in the mid-1800s; two, they were trying to raise funds to renovate the old Relief Society Building that sits along Santa Clara Drive.

In the 30 years since the celebration started, it has grown into a prestigious event complete with a concert and community dinner, vendors and food booths, a 5K, pancake breakfast and parade, a large car show, and pioneer crafts, games and tributes.

Residents of Santa Clara display a Swiss flag and painted cows in honor of the Swiss pioneers who settled the city, Santa Clara, Utah, Sept. 11, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Stark, St. George News

Beyond the activities, Swiss Days has become a tradition for families who often center their family reunions around the event, Ence said.

“You can come here and have a reunion and we’ve provided all the entertainment you would need for your family,” Ence said, citing the annual 5K as one of the activities families have been returning to for decades.

As Washington County remains in the yellow risk level for coronavirus spread, both Ence and Frei said that it made it impossible to safely hold the event and still follow state guidelines.

“We tried really hard to still be able to host Swiss Days this year and were hopeful that the state regulations would be able to make our event be able to happen,” Ence said, adding that the location of the event – largely held on Santa Clara Drive surrounding City Hall – made it nearly impossible to be able to follow all the recommended guidelines that would be placed upon the event and attendees.

Some of the recommendations under yellow for events of that size include having separate entrance and exit points, being able to acquire information from attendees for contact tracing purposes and being able to social distance, Ence said.

“As we got looking through everything, it just became the right decision to just not have Swiss Days this year because we wouldn’t have been able to do it safely with the guidelines that were in place,” Ence said.

The two coordinators counseled with the Santa Clara City Council on multiple occasions throughout the process of deciding whether or not to hold the event, Frei said, adding that ultimately the council directed the decision to call off what would have been the event’s 30th year.

“It was not taken lightly this decision because it is a strong tradition here and it’s been a lot of work for a lot of people over a lot years to keep it going,” Ence said.

Santa Clara children dress in traditional Swiss costumes during the city’s Swiss Days in late September, Santa Clara, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Santa Clara City, St. George News

The cancellation is marked with sadness for Frei and Ence who have been spearheading the longstanding event for the past four years.

“It’s sad,” Frei said. “The whole reason why we do it is because we love seeing it come together and the community supports it so well. We love getting the community together and supporting Santa Clara. It’s the best weekend.”

Ence said that though they understand that it needs to happen this way in order to stay safe and healthy, there remains some disappointment.

In lieu of the traditional event, a professional fireworks display will take place Sept. 25 directly following the Snow Canyon High School home football game at approximately 9:30 p.m. Ence said to be safe, people should be at their chosen viewing area by at least 9:15.

The fireworks will be launched from the Snow Canyon High School rugby field and those not attending the football game can watch from areas surrounding the school, including Canyon View Park, 1400 North Canyon View Drive.

The display will allow residents from all across Santa Clara to safely social distance yet still participate in a celebration of the city and its heritage the two women said.

To show their gratitude for the continued support of sponsors throughout the years, sponsor banners from the 2019 event have been rehung and displayed along Santa Clara Drive. Additionally, residents and area businesses are encouraged to display their painted wooden cows and Swiss flags throughout the month.

Event details

  • What: Swiss Days fireworks display.
  • When: Friday, Sept. 25, directly following the Snow Canyon High School football game, approximately 9:30 p.m.
  • Where: Areas surrounding Snow Canyon High School including Canyon View Park, 1400 North Canyon View Drive, Santa Clara.
  • Cost: Free.
  • Additional information: Santa Clara residents and businesses are encouraged to display their painted wooden cows and Swiss flags throughout September.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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