For almost two hours, seven herds of decorated cows, cattle, calves and goats make their steady way past the visitors lining the streets of Schüpfheim. The 200-plus animals are then driven to the pastures of local farms – but that’s not the end of the folk festival by a long chalk. Tables are quickly set up on the main street and the cattle drive celebrations continue until the sun sinks behind the Schüpferegg. The Entlebuch cattle drive is a thoroughly genuine event: whatever the weather, the alpine farmers come down into the valley from their pastures on the day decided more than a year in advance. Given that the sun nearly always shines on the cattle drive, it seems the weather gods also approve of this vibrant tradition.
Speaker Bio announces the first of the seven herds: the Distel family had left their pasture (the Hintersteinetli at Sörenberg) at 7.00am that morning. Having walked for 16 kilometres, they pass through the village of Schüpfheim at around 11.30am – and they still have another nine kilometres to go before reaching their home valley «Graben» in Doppleschwand. Prolonged applause and deafening cheers erupt for the splendidly adorned cattle, for the dashing cattle drivers sporting traditional costumes and «Chüjer», for the work of the alpine farmers throughout the summer, and for all those who uphold the living tradition of the cattle drive. At this overwhelmingly poignant moment for herders and spectators alike, many furtively wipe away a tear or conceal their emotions behind a big gulp of coffee and schnapps.