Here’s a definition: “An annual competitive and recreational gathering, usually held in late summer or early fall that began in the nineteenth century for the purpose of promoting agriculture, through competitive exhibitions of livestock and display of farm products. They have now expanded to include carnival amusement rides, games, and food stands, display of industrial products, and entertainment such as musical concerts.” If the county or state fair came to mind, you’d be correct, although this description got its first application in Seville, Spain in 1847 after Queen Isabelle II gave her permission for a 3-day event for “buying and selling livestock.” Thus La Féria in Spain was born which eventually moved north across the border, including to Carcassonne where today our local fair concludes.
Many cities across the south of France celebrate La Féria, some with their distinct touches yet all share some common traits. In Bayonne, thousands of revelers fill the streets for 5 days dressed in white accented with red scarves and belts. In Mont-de-Marsan (near Bordeaux) that color red becomes blue. In Béziers there are equestrian events while Nîmes enjoys the party so much that they hold it twice a year: once in May and again in September during the grape harvest. Some will have bullfights, often in huge arenas used by the Romans 2000 years ago. While there weren’t any conflicts between matadors and toros in Carcassonne we did have daily performances by Les Sévillans, a dance troupe known for their excellence in flamenco, rumba, and sevillana, a dance that originated in Seville.
Amid all of these differences, the common elements are highlighted in the official poster (above in the first paragraph) advertising La Féria here in town: concerts, bandas, and bodegas that we think of as music, brass bands wandering the streets, and pop-up bars serving beer and bocadillos, those crunchy baguette-style sandwiches that are stuffed with meats and cheese. If you’re still hungry, many restaurants have created special menus for this long weekend that feature paella, tapas, and other Spanish dishes.
In keeping with that Spanish theme, La Féria might not really get started until pretty late. Although the first musical act has generally taken the stage around 7:30 PM the final group hasn’t gone on until 11:30 PM and tonight the program says that they will, “transform the festival site into a giant dancefloor!” This could be a long night.
Credits: Bill took the daytime dancing and food photos while a “merci” goes to the city’s FB page for the rest that are © Ville de Carcassonne – Julien Roche. The definition in the first paragraph is an abstract from Wikipedia while the origin of the Féria information is thanks to Tourisme d’Andalousie.