The great Swiss turnip fest

Richter­swil is surely one of few places on Earth to host an an­nual fes­ti­val-cum-art-ex­hi­bi­tion ded­i­cated to the hum­ble turnip.

Sunday Star-Times - - ESCAPE | ENTERTAINMENT -

De­spite the nu­tri­tional value of turnips, the pale root veg­eta­bles rarely get a star turn on din­ner plates, let alone at pub­lic gath­er­ings.

But the good folk of Richter­swil, on the shores of Lake Zurich in Switzer­land, are cer­tainly do­ing their bit to el­e­vate them to su­per­food sta­tus.

On the sec­ond Satur­day in November, towns­folk set about trans­form­ing the usu­ally non­de­script veg­eta­bles into in­tri­cately carved lanterns and sculp­tures.

Some stick to sim­ple faces not dis­sim­i­lar to Halloween pump­kins, while oth­ers go all out, fash­ion­ing peo­ple, an­i­mals, houses, flowers, and even en­tire towns from turnips. Au­drey Hep­burn, who lived in Switzer­land, fea­tured in the 2014 show.

An out­door con­cert is held in the veg­etable’s hon­our, but the high­light of the Rabechilbi Fes­ti­val is un­doubt­edly the evening pro­ces­sion of can­dlelit floats fea­tur­ing – you guessed it – turnips.

The pro­ces­sion is led by a group of women in black said to rep­re­sent mid-19th cen­tury church­go­ers who led towns­folk to evening ser­vices with il­lu­mi­nated beets.

Switzer­land Tourism says that while ‘‘re­search has shown this lovely le­gend may not be true, this does not dampen the en­thu­si­asm of the par­tic­i­pants or the gen­eral har­mony of the evening’’.

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