It’s hard to put into words the feeling of excitement, the Jerezanos love, or the profound impact the feria has on the people of Jerez. The feria is bigger than Semana Santa, it’s eight unforgettable days of horses, wines, rebujitos (a mixture of tio pepe fino and 7 up), sevillanas (a typical flamenco-style dance), beautiful women in beautiful flamenco-styled dressed and good company; it consumes the people of Jerez, and during those eight days everyone’s heart beats as one, to the rhythm of the Feria.
For me the Feria has been a built up since last year; a friend of mine first told me about it a couple months before it happened and had invited me to go with him since he had some friends in Jerez (at the time I didn’t know I’d be living here), however when it came down to it, that friend didn’t have any space so I was unable to go. I was disappointed because I had heard how amazing it was and how it was the best in Spain. Luckily I was given another chance.
Expectations were set high and the Feria surpassed them.
The Feria takes place in an area about the size of 23.5 American football fields, it’s massive and there’s not a moment when it’s empty; there’s over 200 casetas, bar-like structures offering food, drink and music. It’s a constant flow of energy and good vibes. There are two sides to the Feria, Feria by day and Feria by night. During the day the streets are filled with horses and carriages, usually an older crowd can be found, it’s more reserved for families having lunch, casual meet ups and encounters among friends and the of course the dancing of sevillanas. At night the feria transforms, the spectacular lights illuminate the fair grounds as if it were daylight; the Jerezanos who began the day with their lunch are either still going strong or slowly filtering out to return back home; the botellon park begins to fill with people of all ages, people who will eventually make their way into the main part. It wouldn’t be a proper Spanish party without a botellon; the botellon is as much a part of the Spanish culture as any other tradition. The casetas that only early were set up for lunch transform into spaces for dancing; others turn into little clubs playing reggaeton and electronic music until the early morning.
This year the fair started a day earlier, on Saturday instead of the normal Sunday start and it happened to fall on the week of Labor day, so we had the first Monday off. This allowed us to experience those first two nights without having to worry about work. Monday I saw it during the day to experience the difference and it’s also when I started feeling sick. I ended up being really sick from Monday until about Friday (Thursday I went to Cordoba). I had plans to meet one of my conversation classes there on Tuesday night, but unfortunately I couldn’t go. By Friday, I was itching to get to the fair, I felt like I was missing out on it, so when I got back from Cordoba on Friday I met up with my friends and we spent the rest of the night there. Saturday came with a heavy heart, it was the last day so we decided to get the most out of it. We met friends from Cadiz (who had been at the botellon since 3:30) around 6 and spent the rest of the day and night at the fair. I don’t know how we did it, we almost didn’t, but none of us had dinner and we were there until five thirty in the morning. I guess the feria breathes life into you that you never knew you had.
The feria is all encompassing and takes over the lives of the inhabitants of Jerez for over a week. It’s talked about all year round and “have you ever gone to the feria” was one of the first questions the students asked me back in September, telling me I must go in May. It’s the highlight of the year, a magical experience making you wish it never ended and having you looking forward to the next one.