A number of festivals in Catalonia have been declared “Traditional Festivity of National Interest” but, in my eyes, few of them deserve it as well as the Festa Major de Vilafranca del Penedès - a town located only 50 minutes away from down town Barcelona, by car or train (Rodalies R4).
It starts today, August 29, and continues until Sunday, September 2. Here you can find the full program translated to English. As you will see, compared to other Town Festivals in Catalonia this festivity focuses completely on traditional Catalan culture. So, this is not the place to go for those of you who want foam parties, box car races and concerts with David Bisbal, but a true treasure for those of us who love Catalan stick dance (ball de bastons), ribbon dance (ball de cintes), Moixiganga, devils and monsters dancing under fire, havaneres and – of course – human towers and the acrobatic version called Falcons.
The most intense part are the first three days, which are in fact quite similar since they are centered around the processions full of cultural performances in honour of the town’s patron saint Sant Fèlix, but you can also see the sardana - the national dance of Catalonia – and (if you understand Catalan) the humorous short plays of Ball de Malcasats. The reason why the vilafranquins can celebrate like this during day time is that Thursday and Friday are local public holidays in this municipality.
Having said that, the human tower exhibition Diada de Sant Fèlix (August 30) attracts loads of people from other towns who – just like I – take leave to be able to go to Vilafranca to see the best casteller teams of Catalonia challenge each other. The atmosphere is absolutely unique, but the square plaça de la Vila on this day is, admittedly, not the best place in the world if you do not like big crowds or come with small children.
As an alternative you have the Diada de Sant Ramon on the day after (August 31). It is reserved for the local teams and funnily, Castellers de Vilafranca (the best team in Catalonia and the only one to take part in both events) is often more successful on the second day than on the first one.
During the weekend (September 1-2), the festival continues at a lower pace but there are still important events like the Dance with Fire (Ball de Foc – similar to a Correfoc), a havaneres concert, the children’s parade, a concert to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Rock Català celebrities SAU and Pep Sala (the people behind Boig per tu) and – of course – the fireworks to mark the end of the Town Festival.
Visca el Festa Major de Vilafranca del Penedès!