26 May, 2012 @ 12:00
1 min read

An appetite for fun in Sevilla

AT the south end of Avenida Asuncion in the Los Remedios neighbourhood of Sevilla, a plot of dusty land lies empty.

A few pedestrians stroll around aimlessly.

A car sounds its horn urging an errant dog to move aside.

Yet a fortnight ago this area was a hive of bustling activity.

The Feria de Abril was in full swing, a sprawling mass of tents packed to bursting with revellers of all ages enjoying one of the most remarkable festivals in the Andalucian calendar.

A fabulous, fun day out, it was over 150 years ago that the fair started at the behest of Queen Isabel II as a fair for trading livestock.

The first Feria took place in 1847 on the outskirts of the city and it wasn’t long before an air of festivity took hold of the proceedings.

The very next year tents were erected for socialising where the high society of Sevilla could come to see and be seen.

Starting out with just a handful of tents or casetas, over the years it grew and grew with this year the number reaching well over 1,000.

The vast majority are privately owned by trade associations, political parties, eminent local families, and business clubs; though a small number of public casetas exist for those unable to secure a much sought-after private invitation.

During a day of blazing sunshine, the locals parade about on the streets in their finery; traje de flamenco for the women, suits and ties for the men.

In the evenings the place really comes to life, as it fills up with Sevillanos and tourists.

Each caseta is equipped with a bar, kitchen, and toilet. Guests are served tapas and drinks from early afternoon until the small hours of the morning.

The festivities continue apace through the night with traditional dancing from locals enthralling foreign visitors.

As the night draws on, people move from tent to tent and invariably spill out into the streets.

The atmosphere is lively and edgy.

The local wine, manzanilla (a pale dry sherry), is served either straight, or mixed with a 7-Up and ice to form rebujito.

It is served from a jug in small plastic cups.

Evidence of its deceptive strength can be seen with sporadic fights breaking out late at night, couples arguing and drunken revellers searching for belongings mislaid or stolen.

And then, as the night owls begin to drift home and the sun comes up, out come the street cleaners, ready to sweep up in preparation for the revelry to begin all over again the next afternoon.

Running from midnight on Monday to midnight Sunday, the overwhelming aspect of Feria, quite apart from its extraordinary size, is the sheer appetite of the locals to enjoy the spectacle.

For six days a year, Feria descends on the city and the people of Sevilla put on a party quite unlike any other.

James Bryce

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