In Seville, these gatherings date back more than 150 years and have grown from a livestock fair into a post-Easter spectacular that the whole city indulges in. Yes, it's a big "thank God Easter is over" drink-fest and more...and it's uniquely Spanish. This year's fair starts next week on April 12 and runs for a couple weeks. More information here and here.
In 2004, Diane and I went to Spain and built in a stop in Seville for when April Fair was happening. Needless to say, we were very pleased to be in the city at that time.
To give you a flavor of the festival, here is a run-down on typical sights and activities of April Fair, illustrated with some pictures I took at the time:
A fairgrounds packed with private "casetas." Green and white striped party tents called casetas line the alleyways and avenues of the fairgrounds. Families, civic groups, clubs, public institutions and other groups purchase the license to have a tent. Drinking and dancing are pretty much the only activities you'll see people doing in their tents and, not surprisingly, mostly in the late afternoon and evening hours.
Unlike Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany where everyone is invited to participate, at April Fair you can't get into one of the casetas unless you belong to one of sponsoring groups or unless you're invited by them to come in. We didn't know this in advance and were kind of disappointed when we found out. None the less, there are a few (like maybe two) tents open to the public so visitors can enjoy the festival as well. At any rate, we liked being at the fairgrounds in the evening because that's the time when it took on its most impressive look with revellers decked out in their party wear, lights twinkling, music floating around and the constant flow of talking, dancing and drinking. And, there were certainly plenty of bars and restaurants in full April Fair celebration mode right by the fairgrounds to get your fill.
Women and girls in colorful dresses. A hallmark of April Fair is the sight of women and girls dressed up in their colorful "trajes de flamenca" or flamenco dresses.
It's a truly unique sight to see 150 women in bright, Technicolor dresses walking down the street.
Even more impressive is seeing thousands of them together at the fairgrounds. Men dress up too, but lets be honest...it's not that big a deal by comparison.Bullfighting. Bullfighting happens in Seville at various times during the year. However, it becomes a focus during April Fair with the stadium packed day after day with fans seeking to see first class fighting by top flight matadors.
Clearly, bullfighting is not for everyone and most Americans find it barbaric. I myself cannot condone it. However, we'd never seen it, so we also felt like this was something we had to see for ourselves to really judge it. So, we went ahead and attended a bullfight. Which, by the way, is not just one fight but several with increasingly aggressive bulls and increasingly talented matadors with each fight. Inevitably, the bull lost each bout, but it was extremely interesting to see the spectacle up close and personal. And oh by the way, the stadium was interesting too. It featured bench seating all the way around with only a few isles, so once you sat down...you were locked in for the entire two hours. Also, the facility had concessions too, but unlike here in the U.S. where we sell beer, wine and hot dogs, they sell whisky, rum and...well, no food at all.
Horse carriages. Families or clubs will hire (or have) ornate horse carriages to transport them from home to their tents at the fairgrounds.
You see these around the city during the time of the fair, but mostly you see them at the fairgrounds itself as people arrive and enter their own little party domains.
The fairgrounds gate. This structure welcomes all who enter and is most impressive at night.
Naturally, the streets around the fairgrounds come alive with street vendors, food stalls, rides and all the stuff that comes with a big fair...and all of it is worth checking out.
So what's the big sum up?
Seville is a city well worth visiting any time of year due to its place in Spanish and world history, its wonderful labyrinth of crooked streets lined with delicious tapas bars, a royal Spanish palace (still used), the presence of the largest cathedral in Europe outside of the St. Peter's in the Vatican (also the burial site of Christopher Columbus) and great Andalusian food and drink. All and all, the city is a treat to spend time in. But, if you can get there during April Fair, everything goes up a few notches and makes it the penultimate visit to the city.
You can see a more complete set of pictures I took at April Fair 2004 here.