Wednesday, August 18, 2004

POLITICS: American Flags in the Swiss Alps

INTERLAKEN, Switzerland - In a cavernous tent arena set up in an old military airfield, a middle-aged man wearing a cowboy hat flourished a blanket-sized American flag as a country singer belted out a ballad.

Outside, in the shadow of the Alps, more star-spangled banners fluttered from flag poles and decorated booths selling Native American jewelry and Wild West souvenirs.

As beer flowed freely, guys and gals in cowboy boots and Stetsons lined-danced and two-stepped to upbeat country tunes blaring live from outdoor stages.

Anti-Americanism may be a growing phenomenon in the wake of the Iraq war, but you never would have guessed it this month at Interlaken's annual International Trucker and Country Festival.

A three-day mix of carnival, country music and lots and lots of shining chrome, the festival brimmed with unabashed, upfront Americana despite widespread local opposition to U.S. foreign policy.

"I'm completely against war, as are most of the Swiss," said a Swiss television personality, Sven Epirney, who moderated the event. "But they love country music, and country music is kind of like that great feeling of space. They are not thinking about the war and that scene. We have our own country scene here."

Founded in 1994, the Interlaken festival is one of the biggest of a number of trucker rallies held across Europe each summer.

Copyright: International Herald Tribune


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