La Feria de Abril de Sevilla (12 - 17 April 2016). The origins of Seville’s Spring Fair or Feria de Abril date back to 1846. It was originally conceived as a livestock market by José María Ybarra, first Count of Ybarra, and Narciso Bonaplata, during the period when the Count of Montelirio was Mayor of Seville, but it was not until the following year that it was officially inaugurated, with a three-days long event.
After a few years, the popularity of the Feria increased considerably, as did the number of livestock sellers and buyers, as well as travelling merchants who came to sell their wares to visitors. Gradually the atmosphere of the fair took on a more festive and recreational character as the general public began to attend dances organised in the “casetas” (marquees) and small platforms installed on the site. The event was declared a Fiesta Mayor by the City Council in 1910, thus encouraging visitors to travel to Seville during the designated dates in April.
Feria de Abril is celebrated one or two weeks after the “Semana Santa” (Holy Week), and lasts one week. It is officially inaugurated on Monday night (“lunes del alumbrao”), when lights all over the fairground are turned on simultaneously- also this night, a very typical taste in the “casetas” is fried fish, “pescaíto”. Feria ends the following Sunday at midnight with a great fireworks spectacle along the river.
The Feria is regarded as a small and decorated ephemeral village full of casetas-marquees and its own streets, named after famous bullfighters.
Colourful and spectacular, every year an enormous gate is built at the fairground entrance commemorating a monument from Seville, lit with thousands of bulbs, which spontaneously creates a common meeting point for Sevillian people. The fair is lit along its streets with thousands of bulbs wrapped in “farolillos” (a kind of spherical folding-paper screen) and the ground is covered with “albero” (yellow soil from the local village of Alcalá de Guadaira used traditionally in Seville in gardens and bullrings).
For one week life in Seville revolves around this fiesta. The music, food, dancing and general joy create a very special atmosphere.
The April Fair is one of the most international and popular of Seville’s fiestas. The fiesta officially begins at midnight on Monday with the “lighting test”, the illumination of the thousands of multi-coloured light bulbs in the fairground and adorning the main gateway, which is almost 50 metres high and has a different motif every year. Once inside the gate you come to the “casetas”, and it is here where you really experience the fair. These tents belong to groups of friends and associates, and are a family space where acquaintances, relations and guests are welcomed in and plied with delicious food and wine; there is singing, good conversation and of course, "sevillanas", the local version of flamenco dancing. The lively and festive atmosphere spills over into the area outside the tents: people usually dance in the street, and the friendly personality of the Sevillian people will entice passers-by into the celebration. You should bear in mind that most of the stalls are privately owned and can be entered only by invitation from the members or their friends. There are however public tents which are open to all. The information office at the entrance to the fair will tell you which they are.
Throughout the fair, people wear typical Andalusian dress: the men wear the typical outfit of the farmworker, and the women wear flamenco or gypsy dresses. By day the fair is filled with horsewomen, riders and richly festooned carriages. This is what is known as the horse and carriage parade, in which you can take part by renting a buggy with a driver from the regular service. Next to the fairground is the Calle del Infierno (Hell’s Street), a lively recreational area with a host of attractions for children and adults, and stands selling cold drinks and snacks. Another vital component is the bullfight: every afternoon people crowd into the Plaza de la Maestranza bullring to see the day’s bullfight (tickets and passes can be bought in advance by telephone or on the Maestranza bullring’s own website). And after a week of merrymaking there is a spectacular fireworks display at midnight on Sunday to send off the April Fair for another year.
More info: visitasevilla.es