Sugarcreek, the "Little Switzerland of Ohio

01 Swiss Fest 1765

The panoramic hills that cradle the charming Swiss village of Sugarcreek offer awe-inspiring vistas that intensify when autumn delivers its vibrant colors. The annual Swiss Festival held each fall in Sugarcreek adds the distinctive flavor of authentic Swiss cheese, charming Alpine-influenced scenery and a melodic background of happy polka tunes to the family-focused Sugarcreek experience.

This year’s festival will be held Thursday through Saturday, September 29-October 1.

The festival, which started in 1953, celebrates the village’s rich Swiss heritage and recognizes the achievements of the hardworking families who chose this area in which to settle. The event began small, with a couple rides for kids and a couple food stands. Today it is one of the largest and most anticipated cultural festivals in Ohio, suggested Christine Quickel, Sugarcreek’s marketing administrator.

The “Little Switzerland of Ohio” was settled by Amish and other German and Swiss families, the latter of whom made the village famous by their cheese making skills. The Alps may be conspicuously absent from Sugarcreek’s hilly horizon, but apart from the missing mountainous vistas, village visitors might easily imagine themselves touring the streets of a small Swiss town — by foot or by horse-drawn buggy.

The festival features cheese eating, wine tasting, parades, lots of Polka music. Locals and tourists flank the village streets to take in the opening parade, which highlights Swiss attire. Other festival highlights include the traditional Steintossen — or throwing of the stone — and the playing of the alphorns — the long wooden horns traditionally blown by mountain dwellers of the Alps. The unusual instruments were introduced to many Americans through TV commercials for Ricola cough drops.

The Steintossen also echoes back to the indigenous peoples of the Alps, tracing its roots as far back as the 13th century.

With unique attractions like the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock and painted murals that decorate village buildings, Sugarcreek is a compelling family destination during, before and after the Swiss Festival,
Quickel emphasized.

“The best way to experience Sugarcreek may be to immerse yourself in our culture,” she said. “We’re very proud of our rich heritage, and we are a gateway to one of the largest Amish communities in the world.”

Every half hour, downtown tourists gather in anticipation around the iconic 24-foot high cuckoo clock that features a happy animated dancing couple dancing to an oompa band rendition of the Bratwurst Polka — and is inarguably the most popular attraction in the quaint village. The delightful attraction is surrounded by elaborate hand-painted murals that depict breathtaking Swiss landscapes amidst an audial backdrop of polka music that permeates the village air. The historical murals adorn the facing of seven buildings, while across from the clock, a 112-foot-long, 13-panel brick wall details the area’s history through sculpture.

Nearby, the Alpine Hills Museum displays a 19th century Amish kitchen and an 1890s cheese house among its three floors of history. The museum also serves as a tourist information center where maps, brochures and other helpful information can be obtained. A block away from the clock, a unique museum tucked inside Lavon Daugherty’s Collectors Decanters and Steins shop features more than 3,000 unique steins and other works of art.

A short drive south of downtown, the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum, which features the largest private collection of steam engines in the United States, helps to preserve America’s railroad history.

“Although train rides aren’t available, the roundhouse is the only one of its kind in the country,” Quickel said. “You’ll find it to be magnificent. The popular museum has had visitors from each of the 50 states.”

Guided tours through the 34-acre site introduce guests to 23 steamers, including its newest acquisition — the Reading Railroad “Camelback” locomotive. Constructed in 1903, it is one of only three Camelbacks still existing. Amidst the steamers guests can take in a depot, a store house, a coal loader, a wood water tank, an ash pit, a back shop and — the jewel of the site — a working, 18-stall brick roundhouse that surrounds a 115-foot turntable. w

You can learn more about Sugarcreek at