Feira das Colheitas - Arouca

The Harvest Fair

Date of the Event: Last weekend of September

Distance to Cimo da Vinha: 9 km

Ticket: Free entrance

It is a long tradition that on the last weekend of September, the historic center of Arouca gets full of life and visitors to celebrate yet another Harvest Fair. Since 1944, this event promotes the best regional delicacies, handicrafts and folklore. Many traditions, dances and songs have been kept alive, over the decades, by the ethnographic dynamics that the fair promotes.

Although the Fair is today a festive tribute to tradition and also a way to boost regional production, its creation was a dramatic and central measure in a period of great difficulties for the local population. By testimony left in writing by the event’s founder, António de Almeida Brandão, we can understand a lot about the socio-economic context of the time. Mid 40s of the 20th century, in the middle of the Second World War, the world was going through a period of scarcity and unpredictability and, as it also happened in urban areas, farmers lacked bread and supplies. In order to face this dark scenario, the Farming Organizations and the City Halls were called to create measures to guarantee access to cereals, and in Arouca they decided to stimulate their own production, especially of corn, and several competitions were created to reward farmers and their associates. The prizes were numerous, and of high value, and the producers thus saw their effort and growth valued. The contests included the best Crop (corn, barley and wheat), Fruit, Cellar and Flax and with the incorporation of the already existing Arouquesa Breed Beef Contest, the Crop Fair was created..

Mosteiro de Arouca
Arouca Monastery © photo by Junta Distrital de Aveiro

The prizes and the valuation of the products led to a greater investment in production, causing the farmers to visit other properties and to evolve their fertilization techniques, and over the years Arouca passed from a deficient region in the production of corn (the Municipality had a granary that filled with cereals from overseas) to an exporting power, managing to sell more than a thousand “cars” per year.

As it still happens today, all prizes are awarded in a noble session held on the last day of the fair.

© photo by Aquiearouca.pt

In parallel with the agricultural dimension, the organization also commited to trying to revitalize popular traditions that, meanwhile, had also fallen into disuse. During defoliation and harvesting, no one sang or danced to the sound of the viola anymore, and the Fair brought back that true folklore by creating groups in different villages to recreate the songbook of the “old people””. Although much of the performance was somewhat improvised, the performances made a splash as a novelty on the raised platform, serving as a stage in the village. Visual and part of the novelty was also the fact that they wear the costumes of the older generations, which is easily interpreted as a precursor initiative for the appearance of larger and more organized folkloric groups in the region.

cover photo © Câmara Municipal de Arouca