Gentse Feesten

Gentse Feesten
Photo: gentsefeesten.gent
The Gentse Feesten (Ghent Festivities) is an annual series of music and theater festivals held every summer in the Belgian city of Ghent. It is considered one of the largest cultural festivals in Europe. It attracts approximately 2 million visitors every year.

The history of the Gentse Feesten dates back to the mid-19th century. At that time every neighborhood of Ghent hosted festivities with music, dancing and beer every Sunday. Commoners worked very hard six days a week and didn’t miss their chance to enjoy themselves on their only day off. Some of them partied so hard that they failed to show up at work on Monday morning. To solve the problem of Monday absenteeism, the Municipality of Ghent united all neighborhood festivities into a single General Fair. It was officially established in 1843.

The popularity of the fair began to dwindle in the first half of the 20th century, largely because of the two World Wars. The present day Ghent Festivities were founded in 1969 by Belgian singer and sculptor Walter De Buck and his then-wife Paula Monsart, along with a group of enthusiasts from the Trefpunt pub. The first festival was a rather modest event that featured a series of live concerts in front of Saint Jacob’s Church.

The festival was an immediate success and kept on expanding in the 1970s and 1980s, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over Belgium and abroad. Since the 1990s, it has been supported by the Municipality of Ghent. The festivities usually begin on the Friday before Belgian National Day (July 21) and run over ten days.

The final day of the Gentse Feesten is known as the day of the empty wallets (de dag van de lege portemonnees). It has been nicknamed so because most tourists will have already spent all their many by this day and the stream of visitors from outside Ghent will have decreased, so locals see it as “their day”.

What does the festival have to offer? Its program includes an impressive selection of events including music concerts, theater performances, street performances (busking), children’s events and activities, and more. Originally, all performances and events were free to the public but today the Gentse Feesten also features several “festivals within the festival” that charge an admission fee.

Some of the most famous and popular festivals held during the Gentse Feesten include the International Puppet Buskers Festival, the International Street Theater Festival (MiramirO), the 10 Days Off Dance Festival, and the Ghent Jazz Festival (formerly known as the Blue Note Records Festival).

With hundreds of events held throughout the city and over 100,000 attendees per day, the Ghent Festivities are the largest cultural open-air festival in Europe and the third biggest urban festivals in Europe, only preceded by Munich’s Oktoberfest and the Falles in Valencia.

Gentse Feesten

Photo: gentsefeesten.gent



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