The world has been keeping a secret tucked away in the south of Spain. Every year in the last days of April, the city of Sevilla throws a weeklong celebration of spring. It is formally called Feria de April, or April Fair. It puts any American town fair to shame.
I had heard of some things to expect from Feria. First of all, it seemed that every store was exploding with the sale of flamenco dresses, hair accessories, earrings, and fans. It is traditional to dress in costume and dance sevillanas, flamenco dances. Second, there are fairgrounds over the bridge where families set up casetas, or tents where they host the upcoming festivities. Third, I knew about the beverage of choice. All of my teachers had taken turns warning my fellow students and me about rebujito and the dangers of the sherry and Sprite spritzer. One teacher went so far to say, “It’s hot out, someone will offer you this drink and you will think it’s so refreshing and cold you’ll keep drinking. Then you’ll wind up on the floor and not know what happened.”
None of this prepared me enough to know what real Feria would be like. We knew to dress up, so my friends and I put on colorful dresses and set off toward the fairgrounds. It’s about a 45-minute walk from my apartment though we could see it from 15 minutes away. A massive light up gate shot up at the end of the very long street of Calle Asuncion. Against the black sky, the orange, red, and yellow lights looked like a giant blazing welcome. The closer we got the more and more people we saw dressed up. Every woman and girl was in a flamenco dress with fist-sized earrings and even bigger flowers on top of their heads. Every man was in a suit, all the way down to the toddlers being pushed in strollers.
Once inside the entrance, endless streams of paper lanterns lit up the sand streets. Red and white striped casetas made blocks of little one-story apartment buildings. They were all different sizes with ones as big as wedding tents. But even the smallest of casetas was fully equipped: tables and chairs, a dance floor, bathrooms, a kitchen, a bar. They are exclusive to the people who own them and their friends (security guards outside and all) but luckily a friend of mine has a Spanish novio and got us in to his friends.
Rebujito was immediately shoved into our faces. It was clear the Spaniards understood the dangers. They carried around huge pitchers but drank out of Dixie cups. With a little bit of that in our system, we were ready to learn some dances. Some eager sevillanos took us out on the dance floor and put up with us stomping on their feet trying to learn some of the complicated steps. I ducked out after learning the introduction.
Later in the night my friend Libby and I wandered around in a state of pure envy. Even in our nicest of dresses we felt underdressed as women floated around in puffy polka dot constructions.
On other nights we rode rides (a complete carnival is set up behind the fairgrounds), ate European fair food (kebabs and crepes), and marveled at the masses of people letting the good times roll.
Most people have off work for the entire week just to celebrate from noon till about 6 am each day. Friends and family travel into the city from all across Spain. It’s a little excessive and decadent, but it makes the U.S. look like the drabbest place on earth comparatively. No festivities like this exist. I’m going to try to bring the trend back to the States and find a happy medium.