Monday, September 13, 2010

Feiras Novas in Ponte de Lima

On Saturday Peggy and I went to Feiras Novas in Ponte de Lima. The translation is "new fair" - even though they started in the 12th century. Europe sometimes has a different sense of "new" than we do in the States... The fair reminded us both of the state fairs in Minnesota and Iowa with their many similarities; these included a focus on agriculture and traditional ways of life, a glorious display of farm equipment, many options for food, a "midway" in which you can purchase just about everything under the sun, and of course, animal barns. The program mentions several events over several days but please don't ask for a translation yet.
At 4pm the Cortejo Etnográfico -- parade of ethnic (traditional) ways -- began and this was a highlight of the day. People from different regions dressed in traditional garb paraded through the streets performing different kinds of music and streamed past on decorated floats. There is a propensity towards carrying things on one's head. The lady above with the chickens and the woman below with the turkey are but a few such examples.
Poultry did play a big part in the parade - and the local children seem to like poultry as much as we do.
The floats were mostly dedicated to showing off the traditional ways of life and the great gastronomic traditions. There were floats dedicated to hunting, bee keeping (with live bees and honey processing), wine making (with grape stomping), baking (with working wood fire oven), and even cheese making. Many of the floats made an effort to give away their wares to the crowd. Below is the cheese float and the kids giving away cheese. Unfortunately we were too far back to partake. While missing the cheese was sad enough, we also didn't get any of the wine from that float or the free pork passed out from the float of "all things meat."
Besides the food there was plenty of music - many drum corps and groups of accordion players. This movie captures one of them - though I'm not sure what the guy in the green shirt at the end of the clip is doing - perhaps a tourist who did get (too much of) the free wine...
video
There were also the big walking puppet-like creations - they were a bit creepy.
Crop art, a Minnesota tradition, was also popular. Though here it had a more religious theme. Here an homage to St. Paul - combined with the practice of carrying things on one's head...
More peculiar were the various "scenes" that were played out on floats or just by collections of people walking in the parade. This clip is of drunks and police. We have no idea what it is about, but it was entertaining.
video

There are also many, many vendors - selling food, drinks, and all other sorts of things. Vendors selling shoes and, oddly, socks were very popular. With all of these vendors were the hoards of people ...
And with any good fair comes good food. We saw more than one place that was roasting a whole pig (sometimes more than one) over wood coals. We found a place selling bifanas - a pork sandwich which we first discovered in Tomar on our last visit to Portugal. These are simple pieces of pork served on chewy rolls baked on the premises. This one had a wood-fired oven for baking the bread. They were delicious. The beer was also pretty tasty on this hot afternoon ...
And what fair is complete without animal barns! It is not only the people that carry things on their heads, the animals get into the act as well, if perhaps unwillingly. Some of the cows were adorned with flowers on their heads. They look sort of nice, but this particular cow does not look to happy about it.
The animal barns are not as extensive as the Iowa or Minnesota state fairs. They only had some horses, cattle, and a few donkeys. No chickens, but they've apparently been promoted to participants in the Cortejo Etnográfico!

~Eric

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