Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Chestnut Festival

In Arriondas at the beginning of November is a festival to celebrate the chestnut harvest and the produce from the vegetable patch (la huerta). Normally a two day event with a several peripheral events, this year it was much subdued in relation to both exhibitors and visitors. The poor economy and 5 million people out of work has seen some tourist events take a knock over the past two years and the scale of such events drastically reduced.

On the first day this year there were no stalls and just a childrens' inflatable bouncy castle and a couple of mobile food vans selling churros (a sweet doughnut type snack) and ice-cream. We had seen a notice advertising traditional sports to take place in front of the medical centre at 5pm so we nipped along to see what was happening.

With disappointingly few spectators, three teams of men took on challenges to chop and saw various logs, competing to be the first to finish the required test. Their axes were like finely tuned weapons, each competitor having a range of axes, each housed in a leather case and stored in a specially crafted box.

The next event on the schedule was walking with weights around a circuit. One man, two weights, walking a small circuit until he is exhausted and can no longer carry on. Sounds easy-ish until you learn that each weight is 51 kg making a total of 102 kg. The winner completed about 8 laps.

The saws were huge with carefully sharpened teeth that would rip through the toughest of logs. 

One man, who we think could have been the overall highest point scorer then gave a display of his axeman skills by chopping and creating steps to climb a vertical log and eventually split a further log at the top - about 4 meters in the air. As there was no presenter or master of ceremonies, it was difficult to ascertain what was happening.

Rounding off the games was a tug of war for the children. Eager teams of boys and girls took the strain and thoroughly relished the effort needed to pull the opposition far enough over the line to win. The best of three. Fortunately each team one a round therefore forcing a tie-break. Each was given a great little baseball cap for their hard work.

It was a great shame that more people didn't attend. It would be a great pity if these low-tech, cheap to put on, traditional type games were to disappear. Such events, albeit fairly modern creations, are important and work on several levels to bind communities together. I can't help thinking that the marketing and presentation side of these events could be much more pro-active. It was a great hour of events that will stay with young and old alike much longer that an hour watching TV or playing computer games.

Just remembered this post about the chestnut fair from a couple of years ago - how things change:

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