Are you curious to know whether we can look forward to a delightful summer this year? Then you shouldn’t miss Zurich’s Sechseläuten festival, the spring event celebrated by the guilds! On the dot of six o’clock in the evening, a pyre is lit with a giant figure of a snowman, the Böögg, standing on top. The faster the fire causes the snowman’s head – packed with fireworks – to explode, the better the weather will be in the summer. We spoke with Böögg builder Lukas Meier in person to find out what further significance this traditional event holds for the city on the Limmat.
Lukas Meier, what influence does the Sechseläuten festival have on tourism and the economy in general?
The Sechseläuten festival undisputedly attracts large numbers of people at national level and has a positive economic impact. Apart from the many visitors from all over Switzerland, the members of no fewer than 26 guilds spend the previous weekend in Zurich, generating overnight stays as well as additional sales for the restaurant trade. And I’m certain that this traditional event also has an international reach – you only have to think of the spectacular pictures that go all around the world from the Sechseläuten square, images that are both unique and identity-creating.
Has this traditional event changed in the aftermath of the pandemic or is just the same as it used to be?
I would say that it is just the same as it used to be, including as far as visitor numbers are concerned – at least that is what the advance sales are pointing to. We have, however, learned a few things from the years of the pandemic. We have set up a new public zone on the square where the Sechseläuten is held. This was initially intended to ensure that the necessary spacing was observed. While that is no longer necessary now, the zone proved to be successful and we have decided to keep it.
Why, in your opinion, is Zurich predestined for major events?
The importance our city has acquired as a hub for Switzerland with its airport and excellent public transport links is naturally sufficient reason on its own. Alongside this, however, it has an attractive range of services to offer. These include great locations and sites for major events as well as the delightful backdrop of the lake and the old town. But there is also a downside to all of this. As an organiser, it is important not to overstep the mark, because Zurich still has to remain a liveable city for its inhabitants. As is so often the case, it is a matter of the right balance – and it’s important to find this.
To what extent does the destination still have scope for improvement when it comes to supporting organisers?
I find the Zurich authorities and organisations such as Zurich Tourism to be highly professional in their dealings with organisers. When it comes to major events, there is a broad consensus that quality is more important than quantity. We are all working hand in hand to achieve this.