Faire La Fête: It’s Party Time

All over the south of France it’s one party after another in the month of August.  The institution of la fête votive, wherein each miniscule village puts on a running of the bulls, fokloric parade, and probably a community meal with an orchestra and dancing, is alive and well.  And in times past, it probably looked more like this: 

sweet and old timey, all about tradition.  But traditions change, and today the vocabulary of the fête votive includes words like abrivado, encierro, manade, chevaliers, and of course taureaux.  These days, it’s pretty much all about the bulls.

When I heard that bulls and Camarguais horses would be running in the streets I imagined Pamplona.  Bulls everywhere, great rivers of bulls, with the spice of danger in the air.  Instead here’s what we had.  Seven teams of mainly masculine riders thundering through the streets almost too fast to see, closely surrounding a few, young bulls.

The Red Cross was there, and there were several phamacies along the route in case of accidents.  Barricades were set up to prevent the bulls from running into banks and shops and starting trouble, and the police were out

to do whatever it is the police do during moments of mass entertainment.  I’d thought they’d be warning everyone to get behind the elaborate barricade system, but in fact although some kids were safely sequestered behind bars too narrow to admit stray bulls

the streets were also full of kids like these.

And these kids had no intention whatsoever of ever getting behind the barricades, in fact, they scoffed at the whole idea,

because they had only one thing on their teenage minds, and that was running as fast as they could to try to grab a passing bull by the tail.  Really, that’s what they’re doing here, and sometimes

they’d even catch one.  I don’t think the song “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” has ever really caught on here.  Also, it’s possible that the myth that French teenagers are more sophisticated and worldly than other teenagers should be allowed to quietly drop by the wayside.

I mean, how sophisticated does this kid look?  He’s not even watching his step as he gallops along behind the magnificent horses.

Of course, it was much more our speed to try to grab some more accessible tails that were parked calmly nearby.

And then later, once thoroughly exhausted by tail-chasing, one could take a break by watching what was in the past and still is today in smaller villages, a torchlight parade.  Here and now, though, it’s evidently been subjected to doping and more closely resembles the flames of hell with twice the smoke.

Or, if you hadn’t had all the bull you could stand, you were offered all the bull you could eat.  Don’t worry though, no bull that was trapped by a teenager was ever put on the menu.  Those same bulls are even today running through the streets of a nearby town, doing their best to ruin the 100 Euro shoes of some hapless kid, and to keep the populace entertained during the long, hot Mediterranean summer.

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