The Feria del Caballos, Jerez de la Frontera
The Feria del Caballo - (Horse Fair) which is held annually in early May in Jerez was a highlight of our holiday. If you want to see a real Andalucian festival with flamenco dress, equestrian pride and passion, and the sheer, almost hedonistic, enjoyment of life of southern Spain, come to the Feria.
We were joined by Carmen and Stace and Hansi and Lori on one day which was great fun. The dates for 2007 are 6th-13th May and for 2008 slightly earlier - 27 April - 4 May.
The event is held in the Parque Gonzalez Hontori, on Avenida Alcalde Alvaro Domeque, to the
north east of the city, about 2 km from the centre. There are plenty of buses which go from the centre of Jerez out to the Park, and there is some car parking near the ground although you would need to get there early. The showground is laid out into “streets” with over 250 Canestas (stands), many of which are taken by companies and businesses. It is, however, not like a trade show, but a party – as the canestas are really bars !
The main thoroughfares cross through the middle of the show ground, and it is here that the daily equestrian parade takes place, from around 1.00 pm or so until 7:30pm. There is no entry fee, but the "hunting down" of a not too costly hotel room for two nights in Jerez was a feat in itself. On a practical note, there is not much shade, and even in May, Jerez will be hot, so it is wise to dress comfortably. In order to sit down you need to go into the Stands, and that, means having something to eat or drink. Even the most fascinating events can be quite hard on the feet !
I must credit Andrew (alucas) with most of these photos and Carmen (Carmela71) with information relating to costume.
Ferias are festivals that are held all over the region. The women get dressed up in frilly Flamenco or gypsy dresses and the lads in traditional horse riders costumes and they go ans dance Sevillanas and drink until the can't stand up. For the youngster's there are fair ground attractions.
Every town has it's own dedication, for example El Puerto's is Fino wine and here in Jerez it is horses.
This means apart from the drinking, dancing and fair ground rides you will also see horse upon horse being ridden down the make shift paths between the erected beer tents. and you will also see horses pulling carriages of brightly coloured women and children.
The Feria in Jerez isusually about two weeks after that of Sevilla's April feria. This means that it is usually in April or the beginning of May. The date changes every year depending on Easter.
In Sevilla you have to be connected to get into most of the Casetas (beer tents) here you do not, and can enter any tent for free.
Feria usually lasts about 5 days and if you are going to be in the area in April or May you MUST check up on when Feria is because you really shouldn't miss out on this great colourful cultural event.
The starting order for the ferias goes Sevilla, El Puerto, Jerez. Other local towns may not have their feria til June (Puerto Real), July (San Fernando) or September( Arcos). Cadiz doesn't have a feria instead it has Carnaval in February.
IN 2008 THE FERIA DEL CABALLO WILL BE HELD FROM 27TH APRIL UNTIL 4TH MAY.
Last, but not least, at night the whole parade ground is lit by hundreds of thousands of lights, so bright that night seems to become day.
Finally, if all this is not enough, just beyond the main show ground to the east of the site there is a big modern fun fair with lots of stands and all sorts of different, and quite scary looking rides.
The traditional parade, put beside the kaleidoscope of colours and fantasy of flamenco dress, added to the sheer fun and dancing on the Canestas (stands), and at the Fairground, creates a combination of formality and flamboyance which is quite unforgettable – and very Andalucian.
I have included a travelogue showing a selection of "people pictures" which I hope shows some of the spirit of this event.
You will see the sheer fun and informality of most of the Canestas (stands) where, with very few exceptions, anyone can go. Big parties of families and friends gather together, they eat and drink, they dance, they party some more – and this being southern Spain the party goes on most of the night as the week of festivity progresses to a peak. There were few tourists at the event, but everyone was friendly and welcoming.
You will see a great parade of horses, riders and carriages in an impressive demonstration of equestrian perfection and pride. Competitors come from across Andalucia, from Jerez itself, and from places such as Cordoba, Ronda and Seville.
Jerez is the capital of Spain as far as horse breeding is concerned and is the home of the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. (There is a separate tip on the school). On one side of the show ground there is an arena where there are daily competitions in equestrian skills. The carriages are beautiful, the horses are highly trained thoroughbreds – and impressively calm in the noisy throng of a Feria – and the riders immaculate.
The carriages are classified according to the number and arrangement of horses pulling the carriage. Two or four were the most common but there were a few with five or occasionally six horses.
You will see a fashion parade of ladies in flamenco dress – some wearing traditional styles, some in the latest fashion, all colourful, all dressed in their best. Carmen explained to us some of the differences in the fall of the skirt, the number of frills and the style of the flounces on the arms. Some ladies wore a matching top and skirt, which is cooler on a hot day than a dress.
Pictures here show a girl wearing the traditional dress with three tiers of flounces and big sleeves and another shows a couple of girls in slightly less traditional styles of dress.
The smartly dressed woman, who is greeting guests at the entrance to the company Canesta, is wearing the black trousers, short scarlet jacket and hat which is in the distinctive uniform of Gonzalez Byass.
The horseriders in the parade were very smart indeed as were some of the more formally dressed ladies.
On the other hand you could just wander in dressed as you please - though I don't expect you would be on the same invitation lists !
The Feria del Caballos is one of the biggest Ferias in Andalucia, and combines the three major claims to fame of Jerez - namely sherry, horses and flamenco. It is held in the second week of May.
The showground is in Parque Gonzalez Hontori on Avenida Alcalde Alvaro Domeque to the north east of the city centre, and is about 2km from the centre. The ground is huge and for the Feria is laid out in a grid of "streets" lined with over 250 canestas (or stands). The main "streets" form a cross through the middle of the showground, and it is here that the daily parade of horses, riders and carriages takes place, from around 1pm or so until 7:30pm. After the parade finishes (well, in fact a long time before it finishes !) the party begins, for the canestas are actually bars !
There is a very serious side to the Feria though. There are daily competitions held in the adjoining arena, and riders, horses and carriages from all over Andalucia take part. After all, this is what the Feria is all about (despite all the partying in the park !)
For more pictures please have a look at my travelogues - just a selection from the many I took over two days !
At the Feria del Caballos there is also a big fun-fair, with numerous rides and stalls. This is obviously a major attraction for the kids during the day, and the teenagers in the evening. It amused us to see the children queuing for the roller-coaster, the girls dressed up in their finest flamenco dresses.
The fair is held on land just to the east of the main Feria site, on the other side of the railway (which is on a viaduct here).