My German is not good.  Yet.  So Google is kind enough to translate everything to me in English.  So when I came across titles like “the biggest Swinger festival in the world takes place in Zug”, I was like, first “I told you so” and second “let me find out more about it”.  Apparently this ‘ch’ between the s and the w makes a huge difference from German to English (see schwingen and schwingers).  Still, anything huge in Zug, no pun intended, is worth analyzing and celebrating.  In that spirit, here is the 10 things about ESAF 2019 you could offer at dinner parties or to your friends as you stroll in the Festival during the weekend of August 23rd.  It will prove you are in-the-know or a true Swiss or well integrated in the local culture, or at least that you care.  And don’t forget to post your photos from the Schwingen Festival at the Photo Contest here that I just created.  Big fun prizes to win like every time.



The history

The very first representation of the Hosenlupf-the typical grip is from the 13th century in the cathedral of Lausanne.  But Schwingen took off in 1805 at the first Alphirtenfest Unspunnen, when Switzerland was under French foreign rule and the sport and the celebration were used to raise the Swiss national consciousness.  The sport is all about tradition and sportsmanship.  My very favorite part is that the winner cleans off the sawdust from the losers shoulders.  Schwinger are amateurs, and the best are frequently in occupations that require a certain physical strength, such as cheese making, butchers or carpenters.  But do not let this discourage you.  Even as an IT Engineer, you stand a chance.  The best swingers are called Spitzenschwinger in German and Google translates as Top Vibrators.  Now “bad guys” does not sound that bad, right?

(Photo by

The rules of the game

The game is rather simple.  In theory.  Because it takes a lot of strength and technique to lift off their feet the huge participants and land them on their back, with their shoulder blades touching the ground.  (I get my ass kicked by teenagers in boxing, so I am not even going to try it).  The effort is graded by 3 judges, one of them in the field, in 8 rounds of 5 minutes each and they get a score. There was the idea of hi-teching the game by placing sensors on the players back for more precise grading. There are a few more rules and details on the grading, but given that you have 3 minutes to read this post and I have the feeling that you will not compete yourself, I will not elaborate further.  You got the basics.

The pants

When you walk around Zug, it is inevitable to miss these guys at the windows of banks that look at you, no matter where you stand.  They look very strong and from the mountains.  Even more inevitable is to notice the pants.  Till today I thought they were handyman and that these stylish shorts are where they put their tools.  Since I did not see any pockets, then I thought that this was a Fall/Winter 19/20 and Spring/Summer 19/20 fashion statement for the region.  Not being fully integrated yet, I did not dare to buy any.  In reality though they are the main accessory for the Schwingen sport.  This is how they grab one another.  And there is an interesting detail: the two opponents wear different colors. One lighter and one darker.  The dude with the last name earlier in the alphabet wears the lighter one.  It helps.  You might also pot this.  The Sennenschwinger (traditionally members of a pure Schwingervereins) wear dark trousers and a colored shirt, mostly a light blue collarless Sennenhemd, while the Turnerschwinger (traditionally members of a gymnastics club, which also performs other sports) wear long white gym shorts and a white camisole.

The money

It does not come cheap.  The event costs around 35 million, out of which the canton will give 1.7 plus 0.7million from the lottery.  All for you!

Ladies of honor

There are 12 ladies of honor.  What do they do?  First of all, they wear the tailor-made Zug festive costumes and get a lot of photos, already a year before the event.  Lots of photos, altogether, looking lovely.  To be more precise: open, cheerful and communicative.  As they should be.  But they more than that.  They help with the guests, stand next to the speakers (the people who give speeches, not the black boxes), they choose the best Schwinger with a wreath and they give a kiss.  To the winners, not you. 

The attendance

It is the biggest event in Zug by far.  300,000 visitors are expected, of which 56,500 will actually watch the Schwingen games live.  The rest will just walk around drink, eat and gossip.  To accommodate all these people, 3000 tons of material, which corresponds to about 300,000 individual parts, brought to Zug with 150 truckloads, have been put in place (  The event is also popular with campers.  The camping area Frozenmatt/Letzi, already fully booked, will host thousands of visitors who will spend the night in the most fun way.

The sculpture

You might have seen it online, but now on Friday, you will see it live.  The wooden sculpture by Stephan Schmidlin.  Super impressive.  Two bad guys fighting in front of the Swiss cross.  We call “bad guys” the good swingers around here.  Please do too from now.  Back to the sculpture.  It is huge, like everything about this event.  4 meters high and 3 meters wide, on a wooden base about 3 meters in diameter and weighing 10 tons.  The artist was a Schwinger himself, like his dad.  Only worse.  He was very light and apparently was not winning much, that’s why he left Schwingen for gymnastics (Luzerner Zeitung).

(Photo by Luzerner Zeitung)

The prizes

If you are a materialistic person, this sport is not for you.  The prizes tend to be symbolic.  Even if you kick everybody’s behind and end up being the Schwinger KING, you will go home with a bull (muni).  Last time I checked (never), a bull goes for over 10,000CHF.  I did not bother to check further how you can make money with it.  Any ideas, pls post in the comments.  The obvious applies.  The Schwingen Kings can make 40,000 to 100,000CHF a year from advertising, according to Wikipedia.  But still share the ideas for the bull.

The entertainment

Per favore.  The song of the year, actually called “079”, by Lo & Leduc.  They will be there and play it a couple of times, along with their other hits.  There are many more artists, something for every taste and mood.  Always very swiss.  Rightly so.  You can find the full program here.

For more information on the event, please visit

(Cover photo by

I just added a Photo Contest for this Schwingfest here Big prizes to win as always.

Check out also the stickers I have created on Instagram and Facebook for your stories: