Jerez Autumn Festival
From: Saturday, September 8 2007, 2:00 pm
to: Monday, September 24 2007, 6:00 pm
Every year the pretty Andalusian town of Jerez de la Frontera holds the Festival del Otoño (Autumn Festival), celebrating the grape harvest, the horse and the magic of flamenco. The streets and squares of the town fill with locals and visitors for a diverse programme of entertainment.
For centuries the town has been at the centre of the sherry "triangle", the area with the chalky soil that produces the grape unique to this fortified wine. It is also renowned for the quality of its horses and their training, boasting the Royal School of Equestrian Art, where horses from around the world are groomed and trained to the highest degree. Finally, Jerez is known as the cuna, or cradle, of flamenco.
As well as exhibitions of equestrian art, Equestrian School shows, flamenco music and dance concerts, there is street entertainment featuring music, theatre and dance, art courses and puppet shows, and a grand procession in honour of the Virgen de la Merced. The most important ceremony of the festival is the Blessing of the Grapes which takes place on the Sunday nearest to 8 September after a solemn mass in the Collegiate Church. The priest gives his blessing and a basket of grapes is placed inside a wooden press. To the sound of choir music, four musclebound men in shorts and special boots to crush the grapes begin the first pressing of the vintage. To celebrate the moment, white doves are released from the church and the bells ring out gloriously from the tower.