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Hundreds of Swiss in ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes’

Published on July 14, 2019

The Twin Cities Swiss American Association, founded in 1973, boasts 425 members – 43 of whom have joined in the past year.

The Twin Cities are Minneapolis and Saint Paul, which occupy opposite sides of the Mississippi River in the US state of Minnesota. Some members live in the neighboring states of South Dakota and Wisconsin, or even farther afield, but they maintain their links to the TCSAA, which in turn maintains the link to Switzerland.

“The TCSAA consists of 163 households with 279 adults and 146 youth of live-in (61 families). The median member joined five years ago, while 17 member households have been an integral part of this community since the 1970s,” notes TCSAA President David Mörker in the club’s annual report. He leads the club along with a dozen board members.

SWI on tour

How do Swiss citizens living abroad view the political debate in their home country? What is important to the expat Swiss community when they vote?

To tap into the mood of the expatriate Swiss community during this general election year, swissinfo.ch is visiting clubs in Europe as well as the Americas.

Cheese and sausage

The large membership is reflected in the amount of specially imported Swiss cheese. In 2018, members ordered 1,877.3 lbs (851.5 kg) of Appenzeller, Gruyère, Emmentaler, Raclette, Tête de Moine and Vacherin Fribourgeois. The TCSAA also has an annual fundraiser that involves selling sausages produced in a Denver factory with Swiss roots. (More on that in another report!)

Key social events include the annual August 1st celebration complete with bonfire, as well as a Christmas party, fondue night, sporting events and regular happy hours for networking.

Speaking of networking, the TCSAA has partnerships with the Swiss Benevolent Society of St Paul as well as the Germanic-American Institute.

Original charter

The Twin Cities Swiss American Association (TCSAA) is committed to:

+ providing an opportunity for closer association of Swiss and friends of Switzerland in the Twin Cities area

+ cultivating Swiss and old world traditions, culture and sociability

+ fostering Swiss-American friendship, cultural exchange and international goodwill

The Swiss factor

“To what extent have we made an effort to become part of the Minnesotan and the larger Midwestern culture while preserving what makes us uniquely and distinctly Swiss?” asks Mörker in the annual report. “Many a Swiss has contributed, is contributing and will yet contribute to American society in general and the larger Minnesota and western Wisconsin community in particular: They teach at universities, lead companies and bring their skills as craftsmen.”

In Minneapolis, a lasting legacy visible to all is the Theodore Wirth Regional Park, which at 759 acres (3.07 km2) is nearly as large as Central Park in New York City (843 acres). It is named after the Swiss-born Wirth, who served as the superintendent of parks in Minneapolis from 1906-1936.

More recently, Bühler, a Swiss company that manufactures grain milling equipment, has been bringing Swiss to the region for decades. Many employees settled in the area, and 18 formed the local Swiss Rifle Club in 1988. Today that club spans three generations; full report to come.