“I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.
The Happy Wanderer – Florenz Friedrich Sigismund
As a child I had the incredible opportunity of spending time in Germany. My siblings and I are first generation born in America; both my parents are from Deutschland. One of my favorite activities while visiting my Großeltern (Grandparents) was to go walking and hiking all over. My young imagination ran wild as we traversed hills and mountains to visit castles, churches, and historical landmarks. One of my favorite places to run and play was the forest that bordered my Oma and Opa’s property. To my delight, one day we packed the car and drove four hours to visit the Black Forest. As we walked my mother told me stories about wandering through the forests as a child; my heart beat with joy as I heard the faint Coo-coo, Coo-coo, of a Cuckoo bird — just as my mom had when she was a little girl. I listened intently to hear it again, but to no avail. Perhaps it was because they are naturally elusive or perhaps it was because my Tante Gabi broke out in a song of her own. She grabbed mine and my sister’s hands and the three of us took to the trail skipping and singing The Happy Wanderer song. During the chorus we would shout and laugh out loud, “Val-deri, Val-dera, Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!” Those moments are some of my most treasured memories; I didn’t know it then, but much of my childhood was spent Volksmarching.
What is Volksmarching?
Volksmarching is a form of non-competitive walking that was developed in the 1960s as a way for friends and family to venture outdoors and explore their communities, nature, and history. The word Volksmarch, literally translated, means people’s march. The activity became so popular that by 1968 Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland formed the International Federation of Popular Sports (IVV). Among other duties, the IVV helps with the structure, sponsorship, and coordination of Volksmarching events. According to the American Volkssport Association, today more than 10,000 people across the globe participate in 7,500+ events. Traditionally Volksmarches are specific routes or predetermined trails or paths (usually 5K or 10K) that people of all ages and abilities can access and enjoy. Many people participate in various Volksmarches all over the world and have fun documenting their miles walked, and collecting commemorative pins and stocknagles (walking stick medallions). Anyone can Volksmarch and you don’t have to limit your ‘march’ to walking. The Volkssporting movement also includes bicycling, swimming, cross-country skiing or snow-shoeing, and other various activities approved by the IVV. You can go Volksmarching anywhere, but one of the best places to go Volksmarching — yes, I’m biased — is (drum roll please) MIDWAY, UTAH!
Walk * Protect * Preserve
Dust off your Dirndl Dresses and Lederhosen folks! Yes, it’s that time of year to grab your walking stick and start Volksmarching! Wait. What? There’s Volksmarching in Midway? Of course there is. With our ‘alpinesque’ scenery, Swiss heritage from early Swiss settlers, and beautiful Swiss influenced architecture; how could there not be a Volksmarch? If you didn’t know — now you know — and you can join the journey. The first Midway Volksmarch Festival was held in 2019; it was, and continues to be, a huge success. This year’s festival is slated for September 17th and will be hosted again by Preserve Midway and Midway Historical Preservation Committee. Preserve Midway is a non-profit dedicated to protecting Midway’s rural lands and heritage. Lori Stone, President of Preserve Midway shared, “The festival is a fundraising event to help further the preservation of Midway’s rural character — cherished by residents and visitors alike. Preserve Midway believes our open landscapes are worth saving. The pastoral Swiss themed village of Midway, like many small towns in the Rockies, is challenged by impacts from rapid urban growth. Preserve Midway wants to balance that growth by preserving open lands. Our mission is to promote thoughtful growth and provide options to landowners for preserving the rural character, open space, and heritage of Midway.”
“I have learned, in the process of educating about land preservation, that Open space is critical for recreation and to preserve a way of life that many find meaningful. This community event is for everyone who loves Midway and the Heber Valley. We hope all will come support Preserve Midway’s mission by participating in this fun family friendly event.” – Lori Stone, President Preserve Midway.
Preserve Midway is an advocate for the Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘Smart Growth’ principals; and the Volksmarch Festival is a wonderful way to raise awareness about: preserving open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas; creating walkable neighborhoods; and fostering distinctive communities with a strong sense of place3. What better way to do that than to get residents and guests alike out walking and enjoying Midways’s open spaces and historical sites. To participate in the 2022 Midway Volksmarch Festival you can pre-register online at: preservemidway.org or register the day of at Midway Town Square beginning at 9:30 a.m. The festival will kick-off promptly at 10:00 a.m. with a gorgeous Friesian horse and other farm animals leading the way. Volksmarchers can take the self-guided “Pathways to Preservation” route which meanders past current conservation projects, including the 105-acre Kohler Dairy Farm and Midway’s historic Mountain Spa. Participants are encouraged to download the Utah Heritage Walks app to learn about fascinating historical insights while strolling through Midway. The trek ends at Midway’s Town Square which will feature live music, info booths, games, farm animals, a bounce house, awards, and food from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. The festival will take place come rain, snow, or whatever ‘weather’ Midway throws out there — fingers crossed it’s a sunny day! Please leave your furry friends at home and bike or carpool; parking is available at the LDS church house located at 165 Center, Midway.
Volksmarching is about bringing everyone together and learning about our heritage and the lands we are blessed to live on and around. It’s about discovering what we have in common, what is important to individuals and communities, and sharing our stories with others. I personally recommend (sometimes) walking while talking; every stocknagle on a seasoned Volksmarcher’s walking stick has a tale just waiting to be told. So, whether you’re a newbie or alumni of Midway’s Volksmarch, don’t be shy – ask, listen, share, and talk while you walk. Who knows, maybe you’ll find someone you can sing The Happy Wanderer with as you skip through parts of your journey. In between those moments take time to stroll silently; in the beauty and majesty of nature, reminiscing, and reflecting on what having open spaces means to you, offer a silent ‘thank you’ for those who have gone before, and promise to do your best to protect the legacy of our mountain valley heritage for future generations.
“After the success of the 2019 Open Space Bond the open space conversation changed. Playing an integral role in the effort, Preserve Midway supporters and Wasatch County taxpayers voted to pass the Bond’s open space measures. ‘Encouraging Midway City planners to preserve open space and increase pedestrian trails brought significant results,’ says Kris Ward, a founding board member. ‘In this way, the Volksmarch and Smart Growth ideals work hand in hand to support our goals.’ Preserve Midway’s advocacy and collaboration with property owners and local land trusts helped protect more than 150 acres in 2021. Rather than adding hundreds of residential homes, new infrastructure, and more traffic that threatened Midway’s rural character; the historic Kohler Dairy Farm, Mt. Spa property, and the Kem C. Gardner Midway Legacy Preserve, have been protected with conservation easements. And, thanks to overwhelming citizen support; another 100 acres are in the process of being saved from development!”
Protecting Midway’s historic Mountain Spa property represents an ideal collaboration between Summit Land Conservancy, Midway City and Open Space Committee, Wasatch Open Land Board, Preserve Midway and private investors. Working in concert, the groups preserved open lands while dramatically reducing zoned density. The 2022 Volksmarch walk will visit this iconic and beloved property.
Fall Festival and Fundraiser
Saturday, September 17, 2022 | 10:00am – 2:00pm
Live Music • Food Trucks • Live Farm Animals • Climbing Wall
Bounce House • Games • Awards • Drawings for Prizes
Don’t forget to: wear a good pair of walking shoes; don your dirndl or lederhosen; bring your walking stick and plenty of water; plan on a few hours to complete the walk; leave Fido home; have fun and enjoy all the festivities.