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Facts on street festivals: a travel through history

The notion of a street festival had come out to wide public several decades ago, bringing a combination of diverse fest activities into one single event. No wonder that the term street festival had become synonym to all-kind-festivals, appropriate for a large number of participants because of the proposed variety of events.

There are various types of street festivals: music and dance performances, carnivals and parades, historical events, holiday celebrations, art or handmade exhibitions, open classes of crafting, food and drink contests, numerous fairs, and others. However, street festivals are not only about gathering all type of activities within one single event. They do have peculiarities and individual traits to make these events outstanding and exceptional. 

Historically, the street festivals started off mostly as street fairs. These events had their primary focus on celebrating holidays, selling food and drinks. Blended with carnival parades and local craft works, they turned into a new type of celebration that also included live music and dance demonstrations.

 Somehow, over the time, these spontaneous activities had evolved into more organized events, with wider and well-thought scenarios, focusing on various objectives to fulfil. Some street festivals focus on historical value, for example the Bastille Day in France, celebrating the Independence Day each year on July 14, introducing French people and guest from abroad to the history of France through great street activities. It creates an easy atmosphere, meanwhile having the definite objective of introducing the history of the place where the festival takes place.

One of the most popular types of street festival would be about life music outdoors for all kind of public. These events could set together activities like open air concerts, contests among participants, karaoke tents, sound labs, and CD fairs. Music festivals can last a few days, like the world's most popular American Coachella Festival (USA), hosting many genres of music; or the European Donauinselfest (Austria), an open-air free music festival organized annually in Vienna, hosting up to 3 million visitors.

Carnivals are the events that attract people from all over the world, usually happening in the weeks prior to the lent start. They are celebrated yearly, involving a public celebration or parade. People participating in carnivals usually wear thematic outfits, hiding faces with masks, dancing and singing in the streets, depending on the focus of the festival, or the region of the world where it takes place. Though carnivals are about feasting and celebrating the days before the lent, when people renounce certain foods or doing certain things, each festival has its own specifics and significance. For example, the world famous Carnival of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) focuses on samba competition during the organized parade, where around 5000 participants dance for 90 minutes, the history proving that the big feasting could turn into a great celebration. Other carnivals concentrate on disguised participants who join the celebration on streets during the Carnival of Venice (Italy), where people are wearing masks to cover their faces, as a social reaction for long ago established rigid class hierarchies in this region. What is important is that behind every carnival there can be found rich historic values, cultural significance, social struggles, and aesthetic connotations, all being a wonderful example of how street festival can evolve into an explosion of emotions reflected in colours, sounds, dances and creativity.

Another type of trendy festivals might be considered the book festivals, focused on promoting books and authors, developing love for literature and writing, also encouraging the discussions and exchange of opinions. These events are usually chosen to be organized in a city for a few days, and happen worldwide. A well known book fair in Northern America is The Word On The Street, celebrated yearly in Canada. Lots of people gather there, reflecting on the preferences in reading as well as focusing on diverse fun activities. The event is family-friendly, with an important focus on children’s needs and interests. Children have their own space at this festival, called Kid-Street that would be a perfect example of how the place may be prepared for different age participants.

The widely known open air Film Festivals have huge success as a part of street organized events. They gather hundreds to thousands of people in wide spaces, offering a specific thematic selection of outdoor movies and cartoons mean to entertain the wide range of audience. These festivals can focus on a genre, topic or length of the movie screened. A few well known open air film festivals happen in Vancouver (Canada) hosting international films, Huelva (Spain) with Ibero-American movies, Zagreb (Croatia) hosting exclusively animation movies.

Festivals celebrate a great range of values, one of them being the social value. A significant moment in South-Eastern Europe street festival’s history dates back in 2008, when an important social event was organized by European volunteers with the aim to establish a healthy inter-ethnical relation among people who live in the region of Macedonia. The Kumanovo Street Festival brought young Albanians and Macedonians together, promoting local musical bands of different ethnicities. The concept of Balkan Streets Festival, evolved from the above event, is implemented in other multi-ethnic regions of the Balkans.

Attending a street festival means a challenge for yourself, as it allows you to see your life from a different angle. Street festivals carry heavy historical, religious and social values, derived from various periods of time when they have been organized for the first time. Having the wide world shaped into one single event that reflects a wonderful mosaic of emotions, values and thoughts, you sense a special significance behind the scenes of any street festival you’re attending, be it music show in Vienna or carnival in Nice. Street festivals reflect the whole nations’ traditions, customs and habits of living their own lifestyle through a special celebration, an event that is the sole expression of people’s choice.

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