Finding Meaning

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Meaning in Midway

By Skip Hellewell
By Skip Hellewell

I’m writing, for the third and last week, as a self-appointed Indy correspondent to little Midway, a.k.a. the Switzerland of Utah. The temperature is dropping into the 40s at night, the maples on the mountain are turning red, which means it’s time for—Swiss Days. It started over 70 years ago as a farmers’ harvest festival but civic energy crazily turned it into the nation’s largest two-day craft show, hosting over a hundred thousand visitors. It’s as though Laguna’s summer-long Festival of Arts, Art-A-Fair, and Sawdust Festival were compressed into one weekend.

During Swiss Days, the 4,000 or so residents of Midway host 200 craft booths on the town square, plus another hundred on neighboring streets. There’s a 10-K run, a parade, bounce houses and climbing walls for kids, continuous entertainment in two venues, and a dozen or more food booths run by local churches. The booths include Swiss tacos (a Navajo taco on a scone), ham on Swiss sandwiches, Swiss baked goods, plus Swiss nuts and Swiss chicken. No worries the hot dogs aren’t Swiss—there’s a bratwurst booth.

 For the contestants of Midway's Miss Swiss Royalty pageant, the focus is on inner beauty.
For the contestants of Midway’s Miss Swiss Royalty pageant, the focus is on inner beauty.

The entertainment venues are big for a village, with a town hall seating 500 and a giant shelter seating 1,000 erected on the (open-air) ice skating rink. The talent covers all the Swiss flavors: there’s an accordion-playing Swiss yodeler (predictably a crowd favorite), a barbershop choir (schmaltz done with a knowing smile), a concert pianist (playing audience requests), some hip dudes playing Gypsy jazz (who knew?), a Swiss choir (yes, Edelweiss was a favorite), youth choirs (surprisingly good), plus the 20-person Midway Swiss Handbell Choir.

My favorite was this town’s version of a beauty contest—the Swiss Miss Royalty. I interviewed the five winners who made up this year’s court but was surprised by the age rule: Contestants couldn’t be over 12.  I asked, “How do the judges decide who’s prettiest?” A girl in braces looked me in the eye and earnestly set me straight: “It’s not about how you look, it’s about your inner beauty. Anyone can compete, you can even be as tall as you want.”

She left me thinking about a town where girls focus on inner beauty and can be as tall as they want. I persisted, “How do the judges decide?” There was a talent contest, they explained, where you might sing, or dance, but “one year a girl won jumping on her pogo stick.”

“Do you have to give a speech about world peace?” I teased. No, but they did speak on, “How can I make Midway brighter?” They also did a service project, raising funds to remodel their school library.

After my interview with the girls, I caught the last number of the barbershop choir, a stirring rendition of “America the Beautiful.” The audience was clearly moved by the song with its references to God’s grace, patriots’ dreams, and our shared quest for nobleness. It brought to mind that all our families were once immigrants and though we’re American through and through, we still love our country of origin. And it all left me thinking we could be more welcoming of today’s immigrants, who likewise reverence their natal land.

So, this is your traveling correspondent’s report on the meaning of Swiss Days in little Midway, Utah. The Beautiful Wife has taken to the “traveling correspondent” idea, proposing we find meaning in Carmel, or the Hotel del Coronado. I promised to talk to the editor.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach. Email: [email protected].

 

Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

Salt Chrch, 8681 N. Coast Hwy, 10:00 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m.  There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 9:30 a.m. (summer schedule)

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.

 

 

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