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The 40th Swiss Days festival in Berne kicked off its three-day run on Thursday, accompanied by the sweltering heat which has become all too familiar to county residents throughout the month.
While a handful of festival events were held throughout the day, official opening ceremonies were held at 6 p.m. The opener was highlighted by speeches welcoming a trio of dignitaries from a community in Switzerland with which Berne is attempting to form a Sister City relationship.
Christian Kopp, mayor of the Swiss city of Trachselwald, spoke in his native language, with a translator at his side. Kopp presented his counterpart, Berne Mayor John Minch, with a small clock as a token of the pending future relationship between the two communities.
"Since we first heard of your building of the clock tower, we have been very excited to visit," said Kopp. "Because the clock tower shows time — and it is very important that we have time for one another. It gives me great pleasure to be here. We look forward to a relationship with you all, and I hope than in the next few months and years I will be able to meet many of the faces I see here tonight in Trachselwald."
Kopp, who traveled to Berne along with his city's clerk-treasurer, Nicolas Meister, said Trachselwald is a community of 1,020 residents that is nestled in a forested and agricultural part of Switzerland.
The Swiss visitors were presented with a gift — a miniature version of the Berne clock tower — by David Burson, chairman of the local Sister City committee.
In his opening remarks, Minch welcomed all visitors to the festival held yearly "to pay tribute to our Swiss-founded community." Minch said that while Berne was recently named the second-best place in Indiana to live, work and raise a family, "it will always be number one in my heart."
Today's festival lineup is highlighted a presentation of the stage play "Heidi" at 7 p.m. at South Adams High School. Musical entertainment will be held throughout the day, culminating with a DJ dance from 9 p.m. until midnight. Amusement rides, tours of local businesses, a quilt show and sidewalk sales are also on tap.