New Glarus Swiss Festivals Collection, 1986-2000

Summary Information

Collection Summary

Title: New Glarus Swiss Festivals Collection
Dates: 1986-2000

  • Zarrilli, Phillip B., 1947-
Unique Identifier: CSUMC0028-CG; UW-Madison Archives Accession 2008/037 40L6

Contents: University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives: 3 folders, 24 color photographs, 9 audiocassettes, 4 micro-cassettes, 1 mini-VHS videocassette, and 39 VHS videocassettes

Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures
432 East Campus Mall, Room 332
Madison, Wisconsin 53706
Web site:

Archival Location:
UW-Madison Archives and Records Management (Map)

This collection contains documentation from Phillip Zarrilli and Deborah Neff's 1986-1989 fieldwork regarding New Glarus, Wisconsin and its Swiss summer festivals, plus materials from Ric Segovia's 1999-2000 research on the same topic. Extensive video and sound recordings capture interviews with over 80 people and numerous members of choral and musical groups involved in the village's festivals and plays, including Polkafest in May, the Heidi play and Little Switzerland Festival in June, Volksfest (Swiss Independence Day) in August, both English and German versions of the Wilhelm Tell play and the Tell parade over Labor Day weekend, and Schwingfest in late September. The documentation concerns the history of New Glarus, stories of immigration from Swiss residents, and the history of the town's public performances produced entirely by local volunteers, illustrating the importance of the festivals to the economic health and social cohesion of the community. Actors, play directors, festival organizers, shop and hotel owners, Swiss folk dancers and musicians, children, tourists, and life-long residents of New Glarus all offer stories of their experiences in the life of the community and in the festivals that express their real or adopted Swiss heritage.

Language: Manuscripts are in English, and recorded theatrical productions and music are in German and English.

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Collection Concordance by Format
Quantity Physical Description Location
Manuscript Materials
3 folders UW-Madison Archives
Sound Recordings
9 60-minute audiocassettes UW-Madison Archives
4 60-minute micro-cassettes UW-Madison Archives
Graphic Materials
24 35 mm 4x6 color photographs UW-Madison Archives
Moving Images
1 Mini-VHS-C videocassette (color) UW-Madison Archives
39 VHS videocassettes (color) UW-Madison Archives


Phillip Zarrilli led the fieldwork represented in this collection. Then a professor of Theater and Drama at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an active member of the Folklore Program, he specialized in South Asian folk/vernacular drama and performance arts. Deborah Neff, then a graduate student in Anthropology, conducted extensive fieldwork from 1986-1989, and with Zarrilli produced an educational documentary video and a 48-page booklet about New Glarus, Wisconsin's Wilhelm Tell Festival for its 50th anniversary. Zarrilli and Neff did most of the videography and interviews with extra camera help from University of Wisconsin-Madison students Jerry Berndobler and Brad Bornemann. Ric Segovia added to the collection in 1999-2000 by interviewing four actors from the Tell play, videotaping the Tell performance, taking color photographs of the play, and writing a descriptive research paper about his fieldwork.

Project History

At the time he conducted his fieldwork, Zarrilli lived in the New Glarus area and was fascinated by the New Glarus community's commitment to the Tell drama's annual performance in German and in English. The Tell play's impending 50th anniversary was a further spark to document the event. From the hours of fieldwork, Zarrilli and Neff produced the 50-minute educational documentary video Backstage/Frontstage about New Glarus and its festivals, for Folklore Program class use, and a 48-page booklet about the Wilhelm Tell play and its history, Wilhelm Tell in America's “Little Switzerland,” New Glarus, Wisconsin (Onalaska, Wisconsin: Crescent Printing Company, 1987). Zarilli produced the video with funding from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Folklore Program's three-year National Endowment for the Humanities grant to improve its curricular offerings.

Scope and Content Note

The collection's folders contain two interview transcripts, a twenty-four page written essay and four Wilhelm Tell play programs all contributed by Ric Segovia in 1999-2000. He also added twenty-four 4 x 6 color photographs of the 1999 Tell play, four 60-minute micro-cassettes recording interviews with Tell performers, and one mini-VHS documenting the 1999 Wilhelm Tell play. The collection's 39 original VHS video recordings from 1986 and 1987 document over 80 interviews with performers, musicians, local historians, shop keepers, and tourists regarding New Glarus's Swiss festivals; these include Polkafest (polka music and dancing), the Heidi Festival, the Little Switzerland Festival (Swiss folk music and dance), Volksfest (Swiss folk music and dance), the Wilhelm Tell Festival, and Schwingfest (Swiss wrestling, held irregularly, in 1978-1979, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1993). The videos also record full versions of the Tell and Heidi plays; Volksfest, the Little Switzerland Festival, and Polkafest's musical performances; and all of the Swiss wrestling matches that occurred during Schwingfest. This collection also includes nine standard audiocassettes that duplicate interviews from video footage.

Related Materials

“Wisconsin Swiss Traditional Music Project Collection” (CSUMC0005-CG)

“Smithsonian/Wisconsin Folklife Festivals Collection” guide, forthcoming.

Family Farming in the Heartland Program, Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife, Washington, D.C., 1991.


Productions resulting from the described fieldwork were:

Zarilli, Phillip B., producer; Berndobler, Jerry, and Grady, Sharon, eds. Backstage/Frontstage: The New Glarus Tell Experience. 50-minute video documentary. Madison: University of Wisconsin-Madison Folklore Program. 1989.

Neff, Deborah, and Zarrilli, Phillip B. Wilhelm Tell in America's “Little Switzerland,” New Glarus, Wisconsin. Onalaska, Wisconsin: Crescent Printing Company. 1987.

Key Subjects
Groups (Ethnic, National, Cultural, Religious, etc.)

  • Swiss
  • Swiss Americans


  • Accordion
  • Alphorn
  • Button-key accordion


  • English language
  • German language
  • Swiss-German language


  • New Glarus (Wis.)


  • New Glarus Historical Society (Wis.)
  • New Glarus Maennerchor (Wis.)
  • New Glarus Yodel Club (Wis.)
  • Swiss Historical Village Museum (New Glarus, Wis.)
  • Swiss United Church of Christ (New Glarus, Wis.)
  • Wilhelm Tell Guild (New Glarus, Wis.)

Performers and Interviewees

  • Amstutz, Suzanna
  • Anderegg, Hans, Jr.
  • Bashell, Louie
  • Bafel, Jeanine
  • Christensen, Howard
  • Christensen, Marilyn
  • Dibble, Bob
  • Dibble, Lila
  • Duerst, Margaret
  • Etter, Peter
  • Felisi, Jonas
  • Feller, Herman, Jr.
  • Foster, Ron
  • Gardzke, Dan
  • Grossenbacher, Paul
  • Lenzlinger, Hans
  • Meding, Olaf
  • Mutton, Robert D.
  • Ott, Don
  • Roberts, Mike
  • Schiesser, Elda
  • Schiesser, Linda
  • Streiff, Clayton
  • Streiff, Dennis
  • Streiff, Marion
  • Streiff, Steve
  • Tschudy, Millard
  • Vadnal, Johnny
  • Vetterli, Betty
  • Willi, Ed
  • Yaki, Ernie
  • Yaki, Theresa
  • Zeits, Hans
  • Zeits, Ilene
  • Zentner, Elma


  • Edelweiss Stars
  • Monroe Swiss Singers
  • New Glarus Alphorn Trio
  • New Glarus Band
  • New Glarus Bavarian Brass Band
  • Roger Bright and his Band


  • Band music
  • Choral singing
  • Folk art
  • Folk dancing
  • Folk music
  • Folk theater
  • Heidi (Play)
  • Little Switzerland Festival
  • Polka (Dance)
  • Polkafest
  • Schwingfest
  • Volksfest
  • Wilhelm Tell (Play)
  • Yodeling
Processing Information

Mary Hoefferle, an assistant archivist working with archivist Karen J. Baumann and project director Janet C. Gilmore, processed the collection in June 2007 for the “Public Folklore Archivist for the Upper Midwest” project funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.


Contact records custodians for access information.

UW-Madison Archives
425 Steenbock Library
550 Babcock Drive
Madison, Wisconsin 53706-1201
Phone: (608) 262-5629
Web site:

Consult the UW-Madison Archives for information on use restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Please consult the UW-Madison Archives for guidelines. CSUMC's archiving team suggests the following citation form when using direct quotes from a person documented: [Name of person documented]. [Date]. [Tape/video/other]-recorded interview by [Fieldworker name]. [Place interviewed]. [Name of collection/project]. [Repository, city, state]. When using a specific image: [Identify subject matter/people in caption]. Photo/image by [Photographer/fieldworker name]. [Date]. Courtesy of [repository]. To quote fieldworker, follow bibliographical style.

Collection Inventory and Description
Box   1
Folder   1
Transcriptions of interviews with Peter Etter (11 pages) and Dennis Streiff (11 pages), 1999 September and October
Box   1
Folder   2
“Traditional Performance: Wilhelm Tell, A Swiss Heritage Tradition” essay (24 pages) by Ric Segovia, 2000 March 30
Box   1
Folder   3
Photocopies of Wilhem Tell play programs from 1938, 1939, 1940, and 1999
Subseries: 60-minute Standard Audiocassettes
Note: Most interviews were recorded simultaneously on audiocassette as well as videotape.
Box   1
Cassette   1
Interviews, 1986 August 17
Scope and Content Note: Millard Tschudy about the history of New Glarus and his experience in the historical pageants; three former Wilhelm Tell actors. Also see video #860.
Box   1
Cassette   2
Interviews, 1986 June 28 and 1986 August 3
Scope and Content Note: Older Tell performers, New Glarus business owner/resident, Illinois tourists, and Willi, a Swiss immigrant to New Glarus. See videos #824 and #849.
Box   1
Cassette   3
Interviews, 1986 August 3
Scope and Content Note: Willi, continued; Paul Grossenbacher (also a Swiss immigrant and Tell performer); and an anonymous male Tell actor. See video #849.
Box   1
Cassette   4
Interviews, 1986 August 24
Scope and Content Note: Dennis Streiff, the former director of and actor in the English-language Tell play; two former Heidi actors; Don Ott; a group interview with Rudy, Hans, and Peter who acted in the German-language Tell, and Mike Roberts, a young actor in the German-language Tell. See video #897.
Box   1
Cassette   5
Interviews, 1986 August 24 and 1987 September 12
Scope and Content Note: Mike Roberts, continued; Reverend Robert Mutton, pastor of the Swiss United Church of Christ; Wilma who works at the Swiss Historical Village Museum; Paul Grossenbacher, immigrant and actor; women and men acting in the German-language Tell play; and Johnny and other Swiss tourist group members. See videos #897 and #1261.
Box   1
Cassette   7
Interviews, 1986 August 3
Scope and Content Note: Elda Schiesser, Margaret Duerst, Tell actors, and audience members. See video #852.
Box   1
Cassette   8
Interviews, 1986 August 24
Scope and Content Note: Wedding dancers; Steve Streiff who was in charge of the animals in the Tell play; Hans Lenzlinger, an actor in the German-language play and owner of the New Glarus Hotel; Suzanna Amstutz, a Swiss visitor acting in the German-language Tell; Ed, a Swiss actor who both acted in and directed the Tell plays; Howard and Marilyn Christensen, German-language New Glarus residents active in the Maennerchor, Tell play, and Art Guild; and Bob and Lila Dibble, who directed the Tell play and sold farm land for the Tell grounds. See video #896.
Box   1
Cassette   10
Interviews, 1986 June 28
Scope and Content Note: Peter Etter; Heidi audience members; a former Heidi actor; band members; Elma Zentner; tourists from Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa; men from Switzerland; Linda and Elda Schiesser; and Ilene and Hans Zeits. See video #832.
Box   1
Cassette   12
Interviews, 1986 August 17
Scope and Content Note: Herman Feller Jr., a Swiss immigrant, former president of the Maennerchor, organizer of Volksfest, and actor in the German-language Tell play. See video #861.
Subseries: 60-Minute Micro-Cassettes
Box   1
Cassette   13-14
Ric Segovia interview with Dennis Streiff, actor in Wilhelm Tell play, 1999
Box   1
Cassette   15
Ric Segovia interview with Peter Etter, actor in Wilhelm Tell play and Superintendent of New Glarus Schools, 1999
Box   1
Cassette   16
Ric Segovia interview with Olaf Meding, actor in Wilhelm Tell Play, 1999
Box   1
Folder   4
Wilhelm Tell Play, 1999 September
Physical Description: 24, 35 mm, 4x6 color photographs 
Scope and Content Note: Photos include views of performance, theater grounds, Peter Etter, Dennis and Marion Streiff, and Dan Gardzke.
Note: All are VHS recordings except for #800, a mini-VHS video.
Subseries: Miscellaneous and Multiple Topics
Box   2
Video   #865
Log Church Ceremony: “Settlers' Sunday,” 1986 August 17
Scope and Content Note: Old organ music, Christian service, Maennerchor sings hymns, and short interviews with several people after the service.
Box   2
Video   #801
“Live at Five” Television news report on New Glarus
Scope and Content Note: On location news coverage at Volksfest and footage of New Glarus main street, discussion of the Swiss heritage of the town.
Box   1
Video   #803
Swiss vocal and instrumental musical groups, 1989 May 6
Scope and Content Note: Men's choir, alphorn playing, yodeling, and footage of public dance to Bavarian/Alpine/Swiss music.
Box   1
Video   #804
Stills of New Glarus
Scope and Content Note: 13 minutes of video documenting New Glarus signs and buildings that represent Swiss Heritage (i.e. Swiss coat of arms, Swiss-Aire Motel, Swiss Miss Lace Factory). Also, black and white historical photos of the town and townspeople.
Box   1
Video   #805
Still Images of New Glarus
Scope and Content Note: No commentary just a two-minute clip of photos of old maps, early immigrants, illustrations of Gilbert Ott and Schiller. Approximately 10 images.
Box   2
Video   #860
Interview with Millard Tschudy, 1986 August 17
Scope and Content Note: Tschudy is a local historian, director of the Heidi play, on the Tell Board of Directors and acted in both the German-language and English-language Tell plays (same interview found on audiocassette 1).
Box   2
Video   #861
Interviews with New Glarus Community Members, 1986 August 17
Scope and Content Note: Interview with Frida who has played Heidi's blind grandmother for 21 years. Interview with Frida's husband and a woman who directed the Heidi play for six years. Last interview with older Swiss man, Herman Feller Jr., who was the president of the Maennerchor, started Volksfest, and wrote the history of the New Glarus Maennerchor (this interview is also on audiocassette 12).
Subseries: Polkafest
Box   1
Video   #806
Polkafest, 1988 May 14
Scope and Content Note: Kick-off, fundraising event for tourist season in New Glarus. Interviews with Dennis Streiff, Ron Foster (Lions Club member), Hans Lenzlinger (Chairman of Polkafest), Swiss woodcarver Jonas Felisi, gift shop owner Jeanine Bafel, and a museum volunteer.
Box   1
Video   #807
Scope and Content Note: Continued music and dancing (only 5 minutes of footage).
Subseries: Heidi
Note: Also see video #897 listed below with the Wilhelm Tell materials, and videos #860 and #861 listed above with the Miscellaneous materials.
Box   2
Video   #822
Heidi Play, 1986 June 27
Scope and Content Note: Play performance at New Glarus High School Auditorium. Backstage and dress rehearsal. Footage of downtown - library, church, restaurants, bank, tourists, flags, and Swiss Crests. Interviews with Kristine and Randy, two Heidi cast members; a Heidi understudy and her mother; and other cast and audience members. Opening scenes of Heidi play.
Box   2
Video   #823
Heidi Play, 1986 June 27
Scope and Content Note: Play from the beginning. Same footage as video #825 only from a center stage perspective.
Box   2
Video   #824
Heidi Interviews, 1986 June 28
Scope and Content Note: Ten-minute footage of interview with man whose daughter was a former Heidi, and an interview with two women tourists from Illinois (interview also found on audiocassette 2).
Box   2
Video   #825
Heidi Play, 1986 June 28
Scope and Content Note: Pre-performance organ music, crowd gathering, opening remarks by M.C. Peter Etter, and recording of the play.
Box   2
Video   #832
Heidi Festival, 1986 June 28
Scope and Content Note: Scenes from the Heidi play and interview with audience members from Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, Chicago (Ilene and Hans Zeits) during intermissions. Interviews with Linda Schiesser, a vendor selling Heidi dolls; Elda Schiesser, who does Alpine paper cutting and is a Historical Society member (interviews also found on audiocassettes 7 and 10). Footage of musical acts from the Little Switzerland Festival (same festival footage as video #833).
Box   2
Video   #849
Interviews during Heidi Festival, 1986 August 3
Scope and Content Note: Interviews with Willi, who played Heidi's grandfather for 22 years and is president of the Heidi play (interview also found on audiocassettes 2 and 3). Paul Grossenbacher gives a public tour of exhibits in the Hall of History at the Swiss Historical Village Museum, then gives a private interview discussing history of the Tell play. Also, zoom views of museum exhibits.
Subseries: Little Switzerland Festival
Box   2
Video   #827
Little Switzerland Festival, 1986 June 28
Scope and Content Note: Last two performances: duet yodelers and choreographed flag throwing, held in the evening after the Heidi play. Only 8 minutes long.
Box   2
Video   #833
Little Switzerland Festival, 1986 June 28
Scope and Content Note: Views of arts and crafts booths/grounds, and of main street architecture. Interviews with tourist, Swiss visiting musicians at the New Glarus Hotel restaurant, and a young woman who worked in Switzerland. Footage of the Little Switzerland Festival (same as video #832).
Subseries: Volksfest
Note: See also video #801 listed above with the Miscellaneous materials.
Box   2
Video   #831
Volksfest: last four performances, 1986 August 3
Scope and Content Note: Only 10 minutes.
Box   2
Video   #850
Volksfest, 1986 August 3
Scope and Content Note: The first 11 of the 15 musical performances in the program: New Glarus Band, Maennerchor, Swiss dancers, alphorns, yodeling, Monroe Swiss Singers, Polka band, Maypole dance, and German-American women folk singers from Milwaukee.
Box   2
Video   #851
Volksfest, 1986 August 3
Scope and Content Note: Same footage of Volksfest's performances 6 through 11 as on video #850, only from a more left-of-stage angle.
Box   2
Video   #852
Volksfest plus Tours of Hall of History and Swiss Historical Village, 1986 August 3
Scope and Content Note: Paul Grossenbacher's Hall of History tour (same as video #849 but from a different camera angle and more zoom views of exhibits). Interview with local historian Margaret Duerst (also found on audiocassette 7). Tour of Swiss Historical Village (log cabin, replica log church and cemetery, cheese factory, two one-room school houses, blacksmith shop, and fire station). Footage of Volksfest performances one through six (same as video #850).
Subseries: Wilhelm Tell
Note: See also video #860 listed above with the Miscellaneous materials, and video #849 listed with the Heidi videos.
Box   1
Video   #800
Wilhelm Tell Play, 1999 September 4
Physical Description: a mini-VHS video 
Box   2
Video   #802
Scope and Content Note: 6 minutes worth of interviews with unidentified residents of New Glarus and actors in the Tell play.
Box   2
Video   #896
Tell Interviews, 1986 August 24
Scope and Content Note: Views of New Glarus historical marker, church, and commemorative statue. Interview with Howard and Marilyn Christensen who had roles in the Tell play. Howard started the Bavarian Brass Band and sings with the Maennerchor (same interview as audiocassette 8). Footage of the Tell rehearsal/picnic. Interview with man about his role in Tell.
Box   2
Video   #897
Interviews with performers, 1986 August 24
Scope and Content Note: Interviews with Dennis Streiff -- reflections on his roles as actor and director of the Tell play. Interviews with two former Heidi actresses, Don Ott, Rudy, Peter, Hans, and Mike Roberts (same interview is found on audiocassette 4). Also, interview with Pastor Bob (Robert Mutton) (also found on audiocassette 5).
Box   1
Video   #900-903, 905
English-language Wilhelm Tell Play, 1986 August 30
Box   1
Video   #906-909
German-language Wilhelm Tell Play, 1986 August 30
Box   1
Video   #1249
German-language Tell Picnic and Rehearsal, 1987 September 5
Scope and Content Note: Footage of picnic, picnic grounds, surrounding landscape, and practice scenes from the play.
Box   1
Video   #1250
The Tell 50th-Anniversary Parade on New Glarus's Main Street, 1987 September 5
Scope and Content Note: Bavarian Brass Band plays while crowd waits for parade to begin, alphorn players, flag bearers, high school marching bands, floats, politicians, queen pageant winners, veterans, Swiss folk musicians, girls' bell choir, mostly Swiss themes and folk costume, yodelers, Shriners, and usherettes with flags.
Box   1
Video   #1251
Tell Parade, 1987 September 5
Scope and Content Note: Same as video #1250 only much better angle/quality.
Box   1
Video   #1253
Wilhelm Tell Play Backstage, 1987 September 5
Scope and Content Note: Short interviews and documentation, costuming and play preparation, views of audience.
Box   1
Video   #1261
German-language Tell Backstage, 1987 September 12
Scope and Content Note: Interview with 5-10 young girls in play and older actors. Interview after play with Johnny, a Swiss travel agent, members of his travel group, and Nicole, the group's tour guide (interviews found on audiocassette 5 as well).
Subseries: Schwingfest
Box   1
Video   #1266
Schwingfest Swiss wrestling matches, 1987 September 20
Scope and Content Note: Open air and in sawdust pits. Switzerland's five top amateur wrestlers, plus university students from Madison and Canada. Interview with Hans Lenzlinger, who organized the event. Interview with two wrestlers from UW-Madison. Traditional awards ceremony.